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Gary L. Stolinski v. Sgt. Jay Pennypacker

August 15, 2011

GARY L. STOLINSKI, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SGT. JAY PENNYPACKER, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

OPINION

SIMANDLE, District Judge:

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's appeal of the decision of Hon. Ann Marie Donio, Magistrate Judge, denying Plaintiff's motion to amend and supplement the Complaint. [Docket Item 166.] The principal issue is whether Judge Donio's Order finding that Plaintiff's motion was unduly and prejudicially delayed is either clearly in error or contrary to law. As explained below, it was not in error, and so the Court will affirm the denial of leave to amend.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Facts and procedural history of current pleading

Plaintiff Gary L. Stolinski is a Sergeant with the New Jersey State Police.*fn1 On July 15, 2005, a New Jersey state grand jury indicted him on three criminal counts relating to his entering false information on credit card applications. One count of the indictment was based on Stolinski having obtained the social security number of an Arizona resident to commit identity theft. All of the charges against Stolinski were ultimately dismissed by the prosecutor when she discovered that, with respect to the identity theft charge, Stolinski had not obtained personal information from the Arizona resident; instead he had entered his business's tax ID in the application's space for a social security number, which tax ID is coincidentally identical to the Arizona resident's social security number.

After the charges were dropped, Stolinski was reinstated to his position on January 5, 2006, and filed this action for malicious prosecution, among other claims, on July 9, 2007. He named as Defendants the State of New Jersey, the New Jersey State Police Office of Professional Standards, and four individual state police officers, alleging that they violated his rights under the United States Constitution and New Jersey law.

On February 16, 2011, this Court entered summary judgment in favor of Defendants on all counts. The Court found that no reasonable jury could find that Defendants lacked probable cause to believe the independent counts of credit card fraud and official misconduct had occurred. The Court also found that New Jersey law does not permit recovery for malicious prosecution when a defendant lacks probable cause as to only some of the lesser counts of a multi-count indictment. Finally, the Court also granted summary judgment as to Plaintiff's claims of abuse of process, false arrest, conspiracy, and privacy torts.

B. Proposed new pleadings

On November 8, 2010, after the summary judgment motion was filed but before it was decided, Plaintiff moved to amend and supplement the Complaint.*fn2 Plaintiff sought to add new allegations and various causes of action for retaliation allegedly occurring in different forms since March 2006.

In the proposed pleading, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants, including six new defendants, retaliated against him for filing a notice of tort claims on March 6, 2006 and because his father filed a formal complaint with the State Police.*fn3 The retaliation allegedly involved Defendant Pennypacker unsuccessfully seeking in 2006 to convince federal prosecutors to bring federal charges related to Stolinski's credit card fraud and official misconduct, the police department bringing administrative proceedings to terminate Stolinski, with official charges having been served on Stolinski on April 4, 2008, and the department changing the conditions of Stolinski's employment on July 2, 2010 by forcing Stolinski to surrender his weapon and vehicle and relinquish his police powers.

A scheduling order of December 22, 2008 set the deadline for amendment of the Complaint as February 27, 2009, over twenty months before Plaintiff eventually sought leave to amend in November 2010. [Docket Item 38.] Although the deadline for the completion of discovery was extended multiple times, Plaintiff did not seek any extension of the deadline for filing amended pleadings.

Defendants opposed the motion to amend and supplement. They argued that Plaintiff failed to establish good cause for amending after the scheduled deadline, and that Plaintiff's claims were unduly delayed and meritless. Defendants contended that they would be prejudiced by the need for additional discovery that would have been less costly if the claims had been timely filed since it could have been done in conjunction with discovery on the other claims. Without articulating precisely what ...


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