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Taffaro v. Borough of Ridgefield

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

June 21, 2013

MICHAEL TAFFARO, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
BOROUGH OF RIDGEFIELD and ANTHONY R. SUAREZ, Defendants-Respondents.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued November 28, 2012

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, Docket No. L-6677-09.

William H. Michelson argued the cause for appellant (William H. Michelson, attorneys; Mr. Michelson, on the briefs).

Ian C. Doris argued the cause for respondent Borough of Ridgefield (Keenan & Doris, LLC, attorneys; Thomas A. Keenan, of counsel; Bernadette M. Peslak, on the brief).

James M. McCreedy argued the cause for respondent Anthony R. Suarez (Wiley Malehorn Sirota & Raynes, attorneys; Mr. McCreedy, of counsel and on the brief; Carolyn R. Conway, on the brief).

Before Judges Simonelli and Koblitz.

PER CURIAM

Plaintiff Michael Taffaro filed a complaint against defendants Borough of Ridgefield (Ridgefield) and Anthony R. Suarez (Suarez), [1] alleging false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious abuse of process, intentional infliction of emotional distress, malicious prosecution, malicious use of process, and federal and State procedural due process violations. The allegations stemmed from plaintiff's arrest for violating N.J.S.A. 2C:28-3a by signing a false certification contained in a request for records pursuant to the Open Public Records Act (OPRA), N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1 to -13. Plaintiff alleged that Suarez, plaintiff's half-sister Susan Taffaro (Susan), [2] and Ridgefield agents and employees conspired to cause his arrest, and Suarez retaliated against him for a letter critical of Suarez that he sent to Ridgefield residents during Suarez's mayoral campaign.

Plaintiff appeals from the November 16, 2011 Law Division order, which granted summary judgment to defendants and dismissed plaintiff's complaint with prejudice. Plaintiff also appeals from the January 20, 2012 order, which denied his motion for reconsideration. Because the police had probable cause to arrest plaintiff and plaintiff presented no competent evidence connecting Suarez to the arrest, we conclude the trial judge properly granted summary judgment and denied reconsideration.

Plaintiff was involved in acrimonious litigation against Susan over his stepmother's estate. The litigation centered on the stepmother's home in Ridgefield, which Susan inherited. Suarez, an attorney and Susan's friend and neighbor, represented Susan in the litigation. Susan was employed by Ridgefield as a court stenographer, and was appointed to positions with the Ridgefield Planning Board after Suarez won the mayoral election.

In September 2003, Susan signed a criminal complaint against plaintiff based on terroristic threats. A Ridgefield municipal court judge found plaintiff guilty of an amended charge of harassment. The judge entered an order on January 27, 2004, restraining plaintiff from communicating with Susan "either personally, or by telephone, in writing, or in any other manner directly or indirectly." Following a trial de novo in the Law Division, plaintiff was found guilty of harassment. The Law Division judge entered an order on July 2, 2004, restraining plaintiff from having any direct or indirect contact with Susan "unless such contact occurs in a professional capacity."

Plaintiff violated the restraining order and was charged with fourth-degree contempt, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-9a. Following a jury trial, he was convicted and sentenced to a one-year probationary term. Plaintiff appealed the conviction, and we affirmed. State v. Taffaro, No. A-5419-04 (App. Div. Mar. 13, 2007). On May 15, 2007, our Supreme Court granted certification. State v. Taffaro, 191 N.J. 318 (2007).

On July 6, 2007, prior to the Supreme Court's decision, plaintiff signed and submitted a request for access to public records pursuant to OPRA, requesting records from the Ridgefield Building Department relating to construction on Susan's home (the ...


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