The opinion of the court was delivered by: Debevoise, Senior District Judge
This case concerns an investigation into possible financial improprieties and fraudulent solicitation by members of Livingston Township Auxiliary Police Associations. Plaintiffs, each auxiliary police officers, have brought this action in an effort to halt inquiries by the Livingston Police Department into the conduct and records of their organizations. Having had limited success with an application for injunctive relief, Plaintiffs now seek over $51,000 in attorney's fees.
Plaintiffs have submitted this fee application pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988(b). Plaintiffs argue that because they were successful in obtaining: (1) a preliminary injunction barring the implementation of a May 31, 2010 directive ordering Auxiliary Police Officers to disassociate from their organization; and (2) an order reinstating John Belluardo, Ken Bosland, Mike DiMuro, Robin Drylie, Tony Mong, Peter Riordan and Marc Tarabour, that they should be entitled to all legal fees incurred in connection with this litigation, including the costs of the currently pending appeal.
Having examined these arguments, Plaintiffs' motion is DENIED.
The Township of Livingston Police Department employs about 75 full-time police officers. (Def. PI. Br. 2) (Doc. No. 16). For many decades, the Township has also maintained a smaller group of auxiliary police officers to provide for additional personnel and resources in the case of public emergencies. Id. The officers in the Auxiliary Unit are volunteers who are trained to assist in functions such as traffic direction, crowd control, and patrol duty. Id. at 3. Auxiliary officers serve under the direction and supervision of the Chief of Police and are authorized to carry firearms. Id.
Throughout the years, auxiliary officers have formed organizations to pursue common interests and objectives. In May 1952, several officers formed a not-for-profit corporation called the Livingston Police Associates Club (the "Club"). Id. at 4. The Club was formed for the purpose of creating and maintaining a shooting range at which police officers, both regular duty and auxiliary, could practice their firearm skills. Id. In the early 1990s, another auxiliary organization, the Auxiliary Police Association (the "Association") was formed. Id. The Association was an unincorporated group operating pursuant to a Constitution and a series of Bylaws. Pursuant to this Constitution, the Association gave substantial control over its operations to the Chief of Police, including the right to "supervise", "exercise control", and "exercise veto powers" over the Association's activities. Id. at 5. The Association's principal activity was to raise money to pay for the uniforms and equipment of auxiliary police officers. Id.
On November 30, 2009, Defendant Handschuch sent a memorandum to all auxiliary police officers informing them that he intended to exercise more direct control over the Association. (Polledri Cert. Ex. 18). In particular, the memo stated that promotions within the auxiliary officer ranks would be made by the Chief of Police and not by the Association itself.
Id. After receiving these instructions, on December 30, 2009, Association President Jeff Mirabile and two other auxiliary police officers formed a new not-for-profit corporation called the Livingston Auxiliary Police Association, Inc. (the "2009 Corporation"). Id. Ex. 9.
The 2009 Corporation was neither affiliated with, nor controlled by, the Livingston Police Department. Indeed, the name of the 2009 Corporation appears deliberately chosen so that it could easily masquerade as the original Association. In fact, it appears that neither Defendant Handschuch nor the Township realized that a new organization had been created for several months. While the 2009 Association was not recognized by the Township of Livingston, it nevertheless used stationary and advertisements that featured an image of the Livingston Police Department badge. Id. Ex. 10. Moreover it solicited funds from Livingston business owners through fundraising letters that purported to be sent on behalf of the Livingston Auxiliary Police. Id.
In early 2010 Plaintiff Mirabile began to take further action to resist Defendant Handschuch's control. On February 22, 2010, Plaintiff Mirabile threw another auxiliary officer out of the Association and informed him that he was no longer welcome to use automobiles purchased through Association fundraising. Id. Ex. 20. That same day, Plaintiff Mirabile told Defendant Handschuch that the 2009 Association would not reimburse the Township for purchases of uniforms and patches for auxiliary officers as it had in the past. Id. Ex. 21.
Relations between Plaintiff Mirabile and Defendants continued to deteriorate. On or about March 9, 2010, the Police Department learned that Plaintiff Mirabile had allegedly threatened two Township employees. (Def. PI. Br. 10). This was not the first time that Plaintiff Mirabile had been involved in questionable behavior. In October of 2009, Plaintiff Mirabile had been involved in another incident with another off-duty auxiliary officer, Darin Dubrow. Id. at 8. On March 19, 2010, Defendant Handschuch suspended Plaintiff Mirabile pending an internal investigation into his conduct. (Polledri Cert. Ex. 24).
In the course of this investigation, Defendants learned about the newly formed 2009 Association and its fundraising efforts. On March 26, 2010, Defendant Handschuch directed Plaintiff Mirabile to provide records and bank information related to the 2009 Association to the Police Department. Id. Ex. 28. Through counsel, Plaintiff Mirabile refused. Id. Ex. 29. By subsequent letter of counsel, Plaintiff Mirabile confirmed that he had retained attorneys for the purpose of "investigat[ing] improper behavior by. the police department." Id. Ex. 30. On April ...