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Rodriguez v. City of Camden

January 13, 2010

JUAN RODRIGUEZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF CAMDEN, CAMDEN CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT, ANNE MILGRAM, IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, THEODORE Z. DAVIS, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS CITY OF CAMDEN CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER,: GWENDOLYN A. FAISON, IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS MAYOR OF OF THE CITY OF CAMDEN, SCOTT THOMPSON, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS CHIEF OF THE CAMDEN: CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT, LOUIS VEGA, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS DIRECTOR OF THE CAMDEN POLICE DEPARTMENT, JOHN DOES 1-10 IN THEIR OFFICIAL CAPACITY: AS EMPLOYEES OF THE CAMDEN CITY: POLICE DEPARTMENT, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hillman, District Judge

OPINION

Plaintiff, Juan Rodriguez, is a police officer with the Camden City Police Department. According to plaintiff, he was suspended without pay and subject to administrative charges as retaliation for his testimony against the City of Camden and the Camden City Police Department in a disciplinary matter involving another officer. As a result, plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court, naming as defendants the City of Camden (or, "the City"), the Camden City Police Department, Anne Milgram, in her official capacity as the Attorney General for the State of New Jersey, Theodore Z. Davis, in his official capacity as the City of Camden's Chief Operating Officer, Gwendolyn A. Faison, in her official capacity as Mayor of the City of Camden, Scott Thompson, in his official capacity as the Chief of the Camden City Police Department, and Louis Vega, in his official capacity as the Director of the Camden City Police Department.*fn1 Against defendants plaintiff asserts federal constitutional violations pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 as well as violations of the New Jersey Constitution and New Jersey statutory law.

In response to plaintiff's complaint, defendant, Theodore Z. Davis, filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, arguing that plaintiff fails to state a claim against him for which relief may be granted. Along with opposing Davis's motion, plaintiff has cross-motioned for leave to amend his complaint. Presently before the Court are both parties' motions.

For the reasons expressed below, Davis's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings is granted, and plaintiff's Cross-motion for Leave to Amend the Pleadings is denied.

I. JURISDICTION

Plaintiff has brought his claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as New Jersey state law. This Court has jurisdiction over plaintiff's federal claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and may exercise supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff's related state law claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

II. BACKGROUND

In July 2008, plaintiff, as a police officer with the Camden City Police Department, was subpoenaed to testify in a disciplinary case involving another Camden police officer, Christopher Frucci. At the hearing, plaintiff testified against the City. Several months later, in December 2008,*fn2 the administrative law judge ruled against the City and in favor of Frucci.

On January 29, 2009, the Civil Service Commission held that Frucci's case was to be remanded to the Office of Administrative Law. That same day, administrative charges were issued against plaintiff, alleging that he abused his allotment of sick time. By plaintiff's account, the allegations dated back to events that supposedly occurred in July 2008, approximately seven months prior to the time when the charges were filed. Moreover, plaintiff asserts that he had already been disciplined based on the same allegations.

On February 13, 2009, the Civil Service Commission released its written opinion regarding Frucci's case. Five days later, plaintiff was subject to new administrative charges "alleging that he was the target of a 'call response check.'" At a hearing on February 23, 2009, plaintiff's suspension without pay was sustained even though, plaintiff submits, no witnesses appeared and no testimony was elicited against him.

Finally, plaintiff was again administratively charged on March 11, 2009 for an incident that allegedly occurred more than thirteen months prior to the charges filed.

On April 22, 2009, plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court, naming as defendants the City, the Camden City Police Department, and, in their respective official capacities, Milgram, Davis, Faison, Thompson, and Vega. Germane to the present matter, plaintiff's only direct, unequivocal averment pertaining to Davis in his complaint states the following:

2.6 At all times relevant to this Complaint Theodore Z. Davis was Chief Operating Officer for the City of Camden, acting within the scope of his employment as Chief Operating Officer for the City of Camden. He is responsible for, among other things, "reorganizing governmental operations [of Camden] in order to assure the delivery of essential municipal services and the professional administration of that municipal government." See N.J.S.A. 52:27BBB-3 (West 2009).

According to plaintiff's complaint, by charging plaintiff "with disciplinary offenses [and terminating his employment] in retaliation for his subpoenaed testimony against the Camden City Police Department in Christopher Frucci's case, the Department" violated his federal and state constitutional rights to free speech as well as the Conscientious Employee Protection Act ("CEPA"), N.J.S.A. ยง 34:19-1 et seq. Plaintiff also alleges that the disciplinary charges brought against him on January 29, 2009 and March 11, 2009 were filed out of time in ...


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