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Anthony Furina v. Detective Ariel Gonzalez

August 25, 2011

ANTHONY FURINA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DETECTIVE ARIEL GONZALEZ, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chesler, District Judge

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

This matter comes before the Court upon Defendants' motion for summary judgment [docket entry 32]. Plaintiff has opposed the motion. The Court has considered the papers submitted by the parties. For the reasons expressed below, the Court will grant Defendants' motion.

I. BACKGROUND

This civil rights action arises out of the March 20, 2009 arrest of Plaintiff, Anthony Furina ("Plaintiff" or "Furina"), by law enforcement officers employed Defendant, the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor ("Waterfront Commission"). The Waterfront Commission is a government entity created by compact between the states of New York and New Jersey. N.J.S.A. 32:23-1. Furina was, at the relevant time, employed as a pier superintendent at the Bayonne Auto Terminal in Bayonne, New Jersey. The Waterfront Commission Act provides that a pier superintendent's duties include the supervision of longshoremen, a job the statute specifically distinguishes from the pier superintendent position. N.J.S.A. 32:23-6. By statute, a pier superintendent cannot perform the work of a longshoreman, that is, move freight on and off ships. Id.; N.J.S.A. 32:23-27.

A confidential informant advised Detective Ariel Gonzalez, one of the Defendants named in this case, that Furina was driving heavy equipment on and off ships at the Bayonne Auto Terminal. Gonzalez investigated and confirmed that Furina was registered in the Waterfront Commission's database as pier superintendent, not a longshoreman. On March 20, 2009, after meeting to discuss a strategy to handle this situation, various Waterfront Commission officers, including Defendants Detective Gonzalez and Captain William Brown, drove to the Bayonne Auto Terminal and set up surveillance. According to Defendants, Gonzalez and Brown positioned themselves with a clear line of sight to the loading ramp of the vessel, the Asian Trust. While on surveillance, Gonzalez maintained phone contact with his confidential informant.

After Gonzalez and Brown observed Furina driving heavy equipment onto the Asian Trust two times, they drove their vehicle onto the vessel and confronted Furina about his activities. According to the deposition testimony given by Gonzalez and Brown, Captain Brown asked him "What are you doing?" and Furina responded that he was "just helping the boys out." (Brown Dep. Tr. 31:22-32:5; Gonzalez Dep. Tr. 89:12-90:24.) Furina disputes that version of the conversation, having testified at deposition that he informed the officers merely that he was working.

In any event, the officers advised Furina at that time that he was being placed under arrest for performing the work of a longshoreman without being registered as a longshoreman, in violation of the Waterfront Commission Act. Shortly thereafter, other officers involved in the operation came on the scene, including Captain Politano, who handcuffed Furina with his hands behind his back. Furina was placed in Politano's vehicle, read his Miranda rights and transported to the Bayonne Police Station. His handcuffs were removed upon arrival at the station.

Furina filed this action on or about March 22, 2010 in the Superior Court of the State of New Jersey. He alleges that Defendants Detective Gonzalez, Captain Brown and the Waterfront Commission unlawfully arrested him and used excessive force in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. He also alleges that the Waterfront Commission violated his due process rights by failing to properly train and/or supervise its employees. Plaintiff seeks relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants for these alleged violations of his civil rights. The Complaint also appears to assert a common law claim for malicious prosecution.

Defendants removed this action to federal court on April 22, 2010. This Court has subject matter jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

The standard upon which a court must evaluate a summary judgment motion is well-established. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment should be granted "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Kreschollek v. S. Stevedoring Co., 223 F.3d 202, 204 (3d Cir. 2000). In deciding a motion for summary judgment, a court must construe all facts and inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Boyle v. County of Allegheny Pennsylvania, 139 F.3d 386, 393 (3d Cir. 1998). The moving party bears the burden of establishing that no genuine issue of material fact remains. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). "[W]ith respect to an issue on which the nonmoving party bears the burden of proof . . . the burden on the moving party may be discharged by 'showing' -- that is, pointing out to the district court -- that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325.

Once the moving party has properly supported its showing of no triable issue of fact and of an entitlement to judgment as a matter of law, the non-moving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). The party opposing the motion for summary judgment cannot rest on mere allegations and instead must present actual evidence that creates a genuine issue as to a material fact for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c) (setting forth types of evidence on which nonmoving party must rely to support its assertion that genuine issues of material fact exist). "[U]nsupported allegations . . . and pleadings are insufficient to repel summary judgment." Schoch v. First Fid. Bancorporation, 912 F.2d 654, 657 (3d Cir. 1990). "A nonmoving party has created a genuine issue of material fact if it has provided sufficient evidence to allow a jury to find in its favor at trial." Gleason v. Norwest Mortg., Inc., 243 F.3d 130, 138 (3d Cir. 2001). If the nonmoving party has failed "to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden ...


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