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Abdus Salaam Malik v. Lewis Hannah

June 28, 2011

ABDUS SALAAM MALIK,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
LEWIS HANNAH, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Jerome B. Simandle

OPINION

SIMANDLE, District Judge:

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the Court on the motion for summary judgment of Plaintiff Abdus Salaam Malik. [Docket Item 126.] Because of Defendant City of Camden's procedural default, there are no material disputes of fact in the record. Consequently, the Court will grant Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment as to Defendant's liability for its officers' conduct.

II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The following facts are taken from Plaintiff's statement of undisputed facts and supporting affidavits, submitted in accordance with Local Civil Rule 56.1. Because Defendant City of Camden failed to furnish, with its opposition papers, a responsive statement of material facts in accordance with L. Civ. R. 56.1(a), the Court deems all properly supported facts in Plaintiff's statement to be undisputed for the purposes of this motion. See Handron v. Sebelius, 669 F. Supp. 2d 490, 492 (D.N.J. 2009) (holding that where "non-movant fails to supply the counter Rule 56.1 statement altogether, the court can treat all properly supported facts by the movant as uncontroverted.").

At approximately 5:00 a.m. on March 28, 2003, Sergeant John Sosinavage, Detective Richard Dayton, and Detective Christopher Frucci, of the Camden Police Department, entered Plaintiff's home at 541 Grant Street in Camden with an arrest warrant for an individual named Stanley Crump, believed to be staying in the house. (Malik Aff. ¶ 1, Pl.'s Ex. 5; Stratton Aff. ¶ 2, Pl.'s Ex. 4; Def.'s Resp. to Req. for Admis. ¶ 3.) They identified, arrested, and restrained Mr. Crump immediately upon entering the house in the kitchen of the building's ground floor. (Malik Aff. ¶¶ 4-5.) While they were restraining Mr. Crump, they reportedly "heard movement on the second floor of the dwelling." (Sosinavage Report, Pl.'s Ex. 3.) They then proceeded upstairs in the house to search the rest of the house "for additional conspirators." (Id.)

The officers, with guns drawn, forcefully entered Plaintiff's bedroom where he and his domestic partner, Selma Stratton, were sleeping. (Stratton Aff ¶ 6.) The officers threw Plaintiff to the floor and restrained him, whereupon they kicked him three times. (Id. ¶ 8, Malik Aff. ¶ 13.) Plaintiff had not provoked the officers prior to being forcibly restrained. (Id.) Plaintiff and the rest of his family, who had also been sleeping in bedrooms upstairs, were then led downstairs by the officers. (Malik Aff. ¶ 14.) The officers, after identifying Plaintiff, explained that they had entered the house based on an arrest warrant for Stanley Crump, and attempted to intimidate Plaintiff by threatening to plant evidence of drugs in his house. (Id. ¶¶ 22-23.) Plaintiff had been injured as a result of the police officers' actions, so the officers thereafter drove Plaintiff to the hospital, where he was treated for his injuries. (Id. ¶¶ 24-26, Stratton Aff. ¶ 9.) Plaintiff's injuries were sufficiently severe as to prevent him from working, causing him to lose his job. (Malik Aff. ¶¶ 34-35.)

After Plaintiff was treated at the hospital, he submitted a complaint with the Internal Affairs division of the Camden Police Department. (Malik Aff. ¶ 31.) The Internal Affairs division conducted an investigation into the complaint, which consisted solely of requesting that Sgt. Sosinavage, one of the officers accused by Plaintiff in his internal affairs complaint, draft a statement of the incident. (Def.'s Resp. to Interrogatories ¶ 1, Pl.'s Ex. 2; Def.'s Resp. to Request Documents ¶ 1, Pl.'s Ex. 1.) Plaintiff has attached Sgt. Sosinavage's two-page, unsworn statement with his motion papers. (Sosinavage Report, Pl.'s Ex.3.)

Plaintiff states in his statement of uncontested facts that Defendant City of Camden's police department, under the direction of its policymaker the Chief of Police in March of 2003, exhibited a "pattern of municipal toleration of abuses by the Camden Police Department, including violations of excessive force. . . ." (Pl.'s Stmt. Materal Facts, ¶ 16.) This uncontested statement is supported by several uncontested facts.

Plaintiff has submitted documents demonstrating that his encounter with Camden police officers was not unusual. Records indicate that both Sgt. Sosinavage and Detective Dayton had been the subject of multiple prior complaints of excessive force or assault prior to their encounter with Plaintiff on March 28, 2003. (Def.'s Resp. to Interrogatories ¶ 17; Pl.'s Ex. 3.) Detective Dayton's record (or "Index Card" in the terminology of the Camden Police Department Internal Affairs), for example, contains six complaints of excessive force or assault in the years 1998 and 1999 alone, all of which were resolved by Internal Affairs as either "unfounded" or "exonerated." (Pl.'s Ex. 3.) However, of the three officers involved in Plaintiff's complaint, none of the officers' records include any mention of Plaintiff's complaint. (Id.) In the five years prior to Plaintiff's incident, the Defendant's Internal Affairs division records show an excess of 300 citizen complaints of excessive force or false arrest by Camden police officers. (Def.'s Resp. to Interrogatories ¶ 15.)

Plaintiff also includes uncontested evidence that less than two weeks prior to his violent encounter with Camden police officers, on March 17, 2003, (then) State Attorney General Peter Harvey ordered (then) County Prosecutor Vincent P. Sarubbi "to supersede the Chief of Police and assume all responsibilities for the management and operation of the Camden Police Department." (Def.'s Resp. to Interrogatories ¶ 8.)

The sole remaining defendant in this action is the City of Camden. Plaintiff argues that the City's actions, specifically its failure to adequately train its police officers and custom of ignoring constitutional violations committed by its police officers, caused the violations of constitutional rights that he suffered, resulting in his injuries.

Plaintiff filed his motion for summary judgment on September 27, 2010, which was received by the Court on October 1, 2010. [Docket Item 126.] Pursuant to Local Civil Rule 78.1(a) and the Clerk of Court's published schedule of motion days, opposition was due on October 18, 2010. Defendant's opposition was filed, instead, 29 days late on November 16, 2010, lacking a responsive statement of undisputed material facts as required by L. Civ. R. 56.1(a). [Docket Item 127.] In fact, Defendant's five-page letter brief in opposition to the motion lacked any factual evidence supporting its denials of the facts contained in Plaintiff's statement of uncontested facts. Plaintiff filed a reply brief on November 29, 2010, which was received by the Court on December 2, 2010. [Docket Item 128.] The motion is therefore fully briefed and ripe for decision.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of ...


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