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Speth v. Goode

United States District Court, Third Circuit

July 3, 2013

CLAUS PETER SPETH, Plaintiff,
v.
ROBERT GOODE, et al., Defendants.

Frederic J. Gross, Esq., Mt. Ephraim, NJ, Attorney for Plaintiff Claus Peter Speth.

William P. Flahive, Esq., Lambertville, NJ, Attorney for Defendants Robert Goode, Geetha Natarajan, Marsetta Lee, and the Attorney General of the State of New, Jersey.

OPINION

JEROME B. SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Claus Peter Speth's motion appealing the May 9, 2013 decision of Magistrate Judge Ann Marie Donio denying reconsideration of her November 28, 2012 order. [Docket Item 256.] The November 28, 2012 order granted in part and denied in part Plaintiff's motion for discovery. [Docket Item 237.] Specifically, the Magistrate Judge denied Plaintiff's motion to the extent it sought an in camera review of several documents Defendants refused to produce. Judge Donio concluded that the Defendants properly claimed these documents were protected by the attorney-client privilege and the Plaintiff had not met his burden to pierce the protection of that privilege. [Docket Item 237.] Judge Donio denied Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration and held that the Plaintiff had not presented any grounds on which to grant reconsideration as she had not overlooked any controlling law or dispositive factual matter. [Docket Item 255.]

For the reasons discussed herein, the Court will deny Plaintiff's motion appealing Judge Donio's decision and affirm the denial of Plaintiff's motion for an in camera review.

II. BACKGROUND

The factual and procedural background of this case is set forth in this Court's January 20, 2011 Opinion and is incorporated herein. [Docket item 153.]

The instant action arises out of Plaintiff's tenure as a county medical examiner and his subsequent suspension. 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. Claus Speth. Dr. Goode composed a report criticizing Dr. Speth and shortly thereafter, Plaintiff withdrew his name from consideration for reappointment as County Medical Examiner.

On April 10, 1992, Dr. Goode issued a letter declaring that Plaintiff 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. Dr. Goode then retired and Defendant Dr. Natarajan was appointed Interim New Jersey State Medical Examiner.

Dr. Speth then began working in the private sector and served as an expert witness for defendants in criminal trials, among other things. Consequently, Dr. Speth still examined bodies at the State Medical Examiner's officer; however, Plaintiff was working as a private expert, not for the State. In 1993, a morgue attendant allegedly observed Plaintiff tampering with evidence by physically touching the tissue surrounding the hyoid bone of a deceased Essex County jail inmate whose body was in possession of the State Medical Examiner.

This ultimately led to a criminal investigation culminating in an indictment filed by the Essex County Prosecutor's Office on October 5, 1995. The indictment charged Plaintiff with third degree tampering with a witness based on Dr. Speth's attempts to persuade Defendant Natarajan to withhold testimony or physical evidence in a criminal proceeding and for two other counts. Plaintiff was convicted on the witness tampering charge on October 28, 1997. Dr. Speth was not convicted for any crime arising out of the alleged removal of tissue from the hyoid bone or tampering with physical evidence.

Prior to being indicted and convicted of criminal charges, Dr. Speth filed the instant action against numerous defendants on January 5, 1995. After several motions and stays, Plaintiff is now proceeding on this Third Amended Complaint against Defendants Robert Goode, Geetha Natarajan, Marsetta Lee, and the Attorney General of the State of New Jersey. The following causes of action remain:

• Count II: Violation of Due Process for failure to train Speth in accordance with Goode's April 10, 1992 letter
• Count III: Violation of Equal Protection for failure to train
• Count V: Abuse of office for personal benefit
• Count VI: Tortious Interference with prospective ...

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