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Claus Peter Speth v. Robert Goode

August 9, 2012


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


SIMANDLE, Chief Judge:


This matter comes before the Court on Defendants Robert Goode, Marsetta Lee, Geetha Natarajan, and the Attorney General of New Jersey's motion for summary judgment. [Docket Item 207.] In response to Defendants' motion, Plaintiff filed a Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(d) declaration*fn1 requesting deferral of the due date for Plaintiff's opposition to Defendants' motion until additional discovery is obtained. [Docket Item 214.] For the following reasons, the Court will grant in part and deny in part Plaintiff's request for deferral of the due date for Plaintiff's opposition.



The facts of this case are set forth in this Court's Opinions of April 28, 1995 [Docket Item 16], December 29, 2004 [Docket Item 53], June 23, 2010 [Docket Item 90], November 9, 2010 [Docket Item 138], and January 20, 2011 [Docket Item 153]. For the purposes of this motion, the Court focuses on the facts relevant to Counts II, III, V, VI, and VIII.

The instant action arises out of Plaintiff's tenure as a county medical examiner and his subsequent suspension. Under New Jersey law, county medical examiners are appointed by the county for five-year terms and are subject to training and/or experience requirements prescribed by rules and regulations of the State Medical Examiner. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 52:17B-83. New Jersey Administrative Code § 13:49-7.1 sets forth the eligibility standards for county medical examiners appointed pursuant to N.J. Stat. Ann. § 52:17B-83. This administrative code provision requires that county medical examiners be fully licensed physicians "of recognized ability and good standing in his or her community" who meet certain standards relating to training and experience. N.J. Admin. Code § 13:49-7.1

More specifically, county medical examiners are required to complete a minimum of 30 hours of basic education, a minimum of 20 hours of advanced education, a course conducted by the Office of the State Medical Examiner on the laws, rules, and regulations relating to the New Jersey Medical Examiner System, and seven days of internship training at the New Jersey State Medical Examiner Office or an approved equivalent. § 13:49-7.1(a). This section of the administrative code also provides for continuing education requirements, which include "any other necessary training." § 13:49-7.1(b),(c).

The New Jersey Administrative Code further provides that any person who does not meet any of the eligibility requirements set forth in § 13:49-7a shall be declared ineligible by the State Medical Examiner, pending a hearing and final resolution. § 13:49-8.1(a). This requirement applies only to current county medical examiners, their assistants, designated forensic pathologists, and candidates for those positions. Id.

In 1991, Defendant Dr. Robert Goode, the State Medical Examiner, conducted a review of the Gloucester County Medical Examiner's Office and the County Medical Examiner, Plaintiff Dr. Clause Speth. [Docket Item 208, ¶ 1.]*fn2 Based on the review, Dr. Goode composed a report criticizing Dr. Speth's suitability as a medical examiner. Speth v. Goode, Civ. No. 95-0264 JBS, 2011 WL 221664, at *1 (D.N.J. Jan. 20, 2011). On January 2, 1992, Dr. Speth and his attorney Ben Goldstein held a press conference in which they handed out copies of Dr. Goode's report to the reporters that they had invited. [Docket Item 208, ¶ 2.] Shortly thereafter, on February 5, 1992, Dr. Speth withdrew his name from consideration for reappointment as County Medical Examiner. [Id. at ¶ 3.]

On April 10, 1992, Dr. Goode issued a letter declaring that Dr. Speth would be ineligible to practice within the State Medical Examiner system for a period of one year and, after the year expired, would be required to complete a course on the rules and regulations governing the New Jersey Medical Examiner system and a seven day internship before being fully reinstated. [Id. at ¶¶ 4-5.] The one-year period expired on April 10, 1993. [Id. at ¶ 6.] Despite this opportunity to apply to resume his position as a county medical examiner, Dr. Speth stated that he had no interest in even applying to be in the State system so long as Dr. Geetha Natarajan was in the State Medical Examiner system. [Id. at ¶ 8.] Dr. Natarajan was appointed Interim New Jersey State Medical Examiner after Dr. Goode's retirement. Pl.'s Third Am. Compl. ¶ 6.

As early as February 14, 1994, Dr. Speth was aware that he was under criminal investigation in relation to an examination he conducted at the State Medical Examiner's Office on the body of a deceased Essex County Jail inmate. [Docket Item 208, ¶ 9.] The Attorney General's Office was investigating whether Dr. Speth had committed the crime of tampering with or fabrication of physical evidence in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:28-6. [Id. at Ex. O.]

Dr. Speth has not applied for a position in the State Medical Examiner system since 1992. [Id. at ¶ 12.] On June 27, 1995, Plaintiff's counsel wrote to Deputy Attorney General ("DAG") Timothy Crowley referencing a May 1995 conversation about scheduling training for Dr. Speth. [Id. at ¶ 14.] On August 14, 1995, DAG Crowley wrote to Dr. Speth's counsel and advised him that the State was not waiving the requirements imposed by Dr. Goode for Dr. Speth to restore his eligibility and that attempts were being made to schedule Dr. Speth's training for November of 1995. [Id. at ¶ 15.]

As Dr. Speth was still under criminal investigation and the Division of Criminal Justice ("DCJ") was concerned with having Dr. Speth attend training in the very office in which he was alleged to have tampered with evidence, the DCJ began exploring who should conduct the training and where it should be completed. [Id. at ¶¶ 17-19.] Additionally, while he was under investigation, Dr. Speth could not apply to become eligible in the State Medical Examiner system. [Id. at ¶ 21.]

On October 5, 1995, Dr. Speth was indicted for third degree tampering with a witness based on his attempts to persuade Defendant Dr. Geetha Natarajan to withhold testimony or physical evidence in a criminal proceeding and for two other counts. [Id. at ¶¶ 22-23.] Dr. Speth was convicted on the witness tampering charge on October 28, 1997. [Id. at ¶ 25.] The conviction was upheld on appeal, Dr. Speth's petition for certiorari to the United States Supreme Court was denied, and the criminal proceedings concluded on October 3, 2003. [Id. at ¶ 26.] Plaintiff has not alleged that he requested training following his conviction. [Id. at ¶ 27.]

After Dr. Speth's conviction, on February 24, 1998, the State Board of Medical Examiners filed a complaint seeking revocation of Dr. Speth's license to practice medicine in New Jersey. [Id. at ¶ 28.] Dr. Speth voluntarily surrendered his license while he appealed his criminal conviction. [Id. at ¶ 29.] In January 2006, Dr. Speth and the State Board of Medical Examiners agreed to reinstate Dr. Speth's medical license subject to a probationary period and limited to forensic medicine only, which made Dr. Speth ineligible to re-enter the State Medical Examiner system. [Id. at ¶¶ 30-31.]

Since 1992, Dr. Speth has been retained as a private consultant, worked as an expert in civil litigation, developed a reputation as a forensic expert nationwide, and testified as a defense witness in at least four homicide cases. [Id. at ¶¶ 33-44.] Dr. Speth has claimed that his private consulting work was harmed as a result of the criminal investigation and that he was told he was no longer being used because of the investigation. [Id. at ¶ 45.]

B.Procedural History

Plaintiff filed the instant case on January 5, 1995. [Docket Item 1.] This case was administratively terminated for years while Dr. Speth was criminally charged and prosecuted and convicted in part, and it was reopened. The Third Amended Complaint [Docket Item

47] was filed on April 29, 2004, and contains thirteen counts against Defendants Dr. Robert Goode, Dr. Geetha Natarajan, Richard T. Carley, Marsetta Lee, various John/Jane Doe defendants, and the Attorney General of New Jersey. Plaintiff withdrew Counts IV and X. [Id.]

On December 29, 2004, this Court dismissed Counts I, VII, XI, XII, and XIII pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). [Docket Item

54.] The case was terminated under the Younger abstention doctrine. [Id.] It was reopened on June 19, 2007. [Docket Item 60.]

Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration of the December 29, 2004 dismissal and abstention order was denied June 26, 2008. [Docket Item 68.] Plaintiff thereafter filed an appeal [Docket Items 69 and

70] which was eventually dismissed by the Third Circuit for lack of appellate jurisdiction on June 18, 2009. [Docket Item 73.] Thereafter, Defendants filed a third dismissal motion which was granted in part and denied in part on June 23, 2010. [Docket Items 90 and 91.] Plaintiff's subsequent motion for reconsideration was granted in part and denied in part on October 6, 2010. [Docket Items 119 and 120.] This was followed by Plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment which was denied on November 9, 2010 [Docket Items 138 and 139.] An order was entered January 20, 2011 lifting a stay, reinstating Counts V, VI and VIII, and granting Defendants' summary judgment motion in part. [Docket Item 154.] The conclusion of factual discovery was supervised by Magistrate Judge Ann Marie Donio in a series of discovery conferences and motions in 2011 and early 2012, including ...

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