On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Civil Part, Somerset County, Docket No. L-1812-06.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted February 14, 2011 --
Before Judges Rodriguez and LeWinn.
Cassandra Wiltz appeals from several orders dismissing her claims against the defendants. We affirm.
In 1990, Wiltz filed an action with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights (DOCR), alleging race and gender discrimination in the form of "differential treatment and pay, harassment, denial of promotion and reprisals," against her former employer National Starch and Chemical Company (National). The DOCR referred the claim to the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) as a contested case. Stephen Klausner, a member of the firm Klausner & Hunter, represented Wiltz for the first seventy-four days of the subsequent hearings. Wiltz terminated Klausner before the conclusion of the hearings and represented herself for the final five days. Following these extensive fact-finding hearings, Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Joseph A. Martone issued an initial decision, dismissing Wiltz's claims based "on credibility determinations adverse to [Wiltz]" as well as her failure to "establish the factual basis for her claims."
Wiltz appealed. Judges Kestin and Cuff determined that the ALJ's factual and credibility findings were supported by the record, and Wiltz had failed to substantiate the alleged denial of due process. Wiltz v. Unilever U.S., Inc. No. A-3761-97 (App. Div. Dec. 3, 2004), certif. denied, 183 N.J. 257 (2005).
After the Supreme Court denied certification, Wiltz filed a seventy-three page complaint in the Law Division against the defendants alleging that: evidence was improperly included or excluded from the OAL record; her complaints against an OAL judge and her prior attorney were not investigated; and that the private and State participants in her discrimination case conspired to deprive her of due process and circulate allegedly defamatory court decisions to potential employers. She also sought damages for the loss of her employment and for mental distress. Lastly, Wiltz demanded injunctive relief to correct alleged irregularities in Judge Kestin's and Judge Cuff's unpublished decision.
On March 16, 2007, Judge Kumpf dismissed Wiltz's claims against the OAL, DOCR, Executive Commission of Ethical Standards, Judge Kestin and Judge Cuff because Wiltz did not file a notice of claim within ninety days of the accrual of her claim, and her failure to comply with the two-year statute of limitations in the Torts Claims Act (TCA). N.J.S.A. 59:8-8(a),(b). Notwithstanding these procedural deficiencies, the judge also found that these State defendants were entitled to absolute judicial or qualified legislative immunity pursuant to N.J.S.A. 59:2-1(a) and 59:3-2(b). Therefore, without evidence that these defendants' "conduct constituted a crime, actual fraud, actual malice or willful misconduct," the defendants were immune from suit. N.J.S.A. 59:3-14.
Wiltz moved to vacate the order, alleging that the State had not properly served her with their motion. Judge Kumpf denied the motion because the State submitted conclusive evidence that she had signed for receipt of the motion at her residence in a timely manner.
On June 11, 2007, Judge Kumpf dismissed the complaint against the former Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General (DAG) assigned to the DOCR, the Chairman of the District X Ethics Committee, the former Commissioner of the DOCR, several Administrative Law Judges (ALJ), and the Deputy Director of the ECES, because Wiltz did not file a notice of claim and her action was untimely. N.J.S.A. 59:8-8(a), (b). These defendants were similarly entitled to absolute judicial or qualified legislative immunity. Moreover, Wiltz's medical expenses also did not exceed the TCA threshold of $3600. N.J.S.A. 59:9-2(d). Lastly, the judge determined that none of the State defendants making the motion were "persons" within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Judge Kumpf granted summary judgment to defendants National, Peter C. Maloff, Fisher & Phillips LLC, Alan Lesnewich, Collier Jacob & Mills, Hilary L. Janel, Ronald Soeifer and Unilever United States, Inc. on July 20, 2007 because none of these parties were state actors within the meaning of 42 U.S.C.A. §§ 1983 and 1985 and two-year statute of limitations had expired. The claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress and defamation were absolutely privileged by the litigation privilege. Lastly, these claims had been litigated to finality in Wiltz's prior discrimination action. Therefore, Judge Kumpf determined that Wiltz's claims were barred by the doctrine of res judicata. Judge Anthony F. Picheca adopted Judge Kumpf's findings and granted summary judgment to Michael I. Fenster on August 10, 2007.
Not accepting the sound legal conclusions articulated by Judge Kumpf, Wiltz moved to disqualify him based on his alleged ex parte communications with defendants, as well as the "civil and/or criminal charges [Wiltz] filed against" him. Judge Kumpf denied this motion on October 19, 2007.
Judge Picheca granted ALJ Bride and ALJ Harvey's motion to dismiss on January 29, 2008 because Wiltz had not filed the notice of claim; the claims were untimely; and the judges were immune from suit. Judge Picheca also dismissed the complaint as to the former ...