The opinion of the court was delivered by: Susan D. Wigenton, U.S.D.J
Before the Court is the defendant Village of Ridgefield Park's ("Defendant" or "Village of Ridgefield Park") motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), 12(c), or in the alternative, for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 for failure to state a claim against Defendant ("Motion").
The Court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985 and 1986. Venue is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b). The Court, having considered the parties' submissions, decides this matter without oral argument pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78. The Court will decide this motion as one for summary judgment. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will grant Defendant's Motion.
On August 20, 2006, plaintiff Susan Vargas ("Plaintiff") arrived at the scene of a motor vehicle accident involving her relatives in the City of Hackensack, New Jersey. Plaintiff, who lived nearby, asked defendant Hackensack Police Officer DeLeon ("Officer DeLeon") if it would be possible to tow the car to her residence. (Compl. 2, at ¶¶ 1-4; Def.'s Br. 1.) Officer DeLeon directed Plaintiff to ask the tow truck driver, who informed her that the Officer had the authority to make that decision. (Compl. 3, at ¶ 5.) Plaintiff then began questioning Officer DeLeon about towing the car, at which point he allegedly became agitated and aggressive towards her. (Compl. 3, at ¶ 6; Def.'s Br. 1.) Plaintiff's husband intervened and explained that she was the Municipal Court Administrator for the Village of Ridgefield Park, New Jersey in an effort to calm Officer DeLeon. (Compl. 3, at ¶¶ 5-8; Def.'s Br. 1.) However, the situation allegedly escalated and Plaintiff was arrested and charged with obstruction of justice under N.J.S.A. 2C:29-1a and resisting arrest under N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2a . (Compl. 3, at ¶ 11; Def.'s Br. 1.)
Plaintiff was brought before the Hackensack Municipal Court. (Compl. 3, at ¶ 12.) After hearing the testimony of the parties, the court transferred the matter to the Little Falls Municipal Court and then to the West Paterson Municipal Court. (Compl. 3, at ¶ 12; Def.'s Br. 1.)*fn1
As a result of the incident on August 20, 2006, on or about August 21, 2006, Plaintiff was suspended from her job as the Ridgefield Park Municipal Court Administrator by Judge Daniel P. Mecca, the Acting Assignment Judge for Bergen County. (Def.'s Br. 1.) Judge Mecca gave the Village of Ridgefield Park discretion to decide whether the suspension would be with or without compensation. (Def.'s Br. Ex. B.) Roughly one month later, the Village of Ridgefield Park decided that Plaintiff's suspension would be without pay. (Pl.'s Br. Ex. B.) However, the Village of Ridgefield Park did pay Plaintiff's salary for approximately one month after her suspension and paid her family's health insurance premiums for the entire period of her suspension. (Pl.'s Br. Ex. B.)
On July 8, 2008, Plaintiff was acquitted on the charge of obstruction of justice, but was found guilty of resisting arrest. (Compl. 4, at ¶ 15.) On April 29, 2009, Plaintiff was acquitted of resisting arrest by the Passaic County Superior Court. (Compl. 4, at ¶16; Def.'s Br. 2.) As a result of these acquittals, on May 19, 2009 Assignment Judge Peter Doyne restored Plaintiff to her position as the Ridgefield Park Municipal Court Administrator. (Def.'s Br. Ex. C.) On July 1, 2009, Plaintiff returned to work. (Pl.'s Br. 2.)
On February 17, 2010, a letter was sent to counsel for the Village of Ridgefield Park requesting back pay for the time Plaintiff was suspended without pay, but Plaintiff did not receive a response regarding her back pay. (Pl.'s Br. 2.) On April 30, 2010, Plaintiff filed a complaint against the City of Hackensack, the City of Hackensack Police Department, Police Officer Allan DeLeon, the Hackensack Prosecutor's Office, Bergen County and the Village of Ridgefield Park with the following four counts: 1) Count I for false arrest; 2) Count II for malicious prosecution; 3) Count III for false imprisonment; and 4) Count IV for wrongful suspension ("Complaint"). (See Compl.) On August 3, 2010, the Village of Ridgefield Park filed the present Motion.
This Motion was submitted as one to dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), 12(c), or in the alternative, as a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(d) provides:
If, on a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) or 12(c), matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56. All parties must be given a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion.
This court has complete discretion to accept such materials beyond the pleadings. See In re Kiwi Intern. Air Lines, Inc., 344 F.3d 311, 315 n.3 (3d Cir. 2003); Wright & Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure: Civil 2d § 1366 at 491 (1990). However, should it so choose, the court may convert the motion to one for summary judgment and provide the parties notice and a reasonable opportunity to present all relevant material. See, e.g., In re Rockefeller Ctr. Props. Sec. Litig., 184 F.3d 280, 287-89 (3d Cir. 1999); Rose v. Bartle, 871 F.2d 331, 339-43 (3d Cir. 1989). As Defendant filed this Motion to be considered in the alternative as a summary judgment motion, and based on the papers submitted, the Court will treat this Motion as one for summary judgment.*fn2
Summary judgment shall be granted if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. A factual dispute is genuine if a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-movant, and it is material if, under the substantive law, it would affect the outcome of the suit. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The moving party must show that if the evidentiary material of record were reduced to ...