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Carmichael v. Thomson

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

March 6, 2015


Cheryl Cooper, Esq., LAW OFFICES OF CHERYL L. COOPER, Sewell, NJ, and Paul D. Brandes, Esq., VILLARI BRANDES & GIANNONE, PC, Conshohocken, PA, Attorneys for Plaintiff.

Christine O'Hearn, Esq., Benjamin S. Teris, Esq., BROWN & CONNERY, LLP, Westmont, NJ, Attorneys for Defendants County of Camden, et al.

Daniel Edward Rybeck, John C. Eastlack, Jr., WEIR & PARTNERS LLP, Cherry Hill, NJ, Attorneys for Defendants City of Camden, et al.


JEROME B. SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge.


This is an action by Plaintiff Lt. Anthony Carmichael, a police officer currently employed with the Camden County Police Department. Plaintiff alleges that his current employer, his former employer, the City of Camden Police Department, and various superior officers, some of who are currently employed at the Camden County Police Department, engaged in a pattern of retaliation and harassment against Plaintiff after he spoke out against certain internal disciplinary procedures and practices that violated New Jersey statutes as well as guidelines promulgated by the Attorney General.

Presently before the Court are two motions to dismiss and Plaintiff's cross-motion to amend the complaint, which Defendants oppose. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant in part and deny in part Plaintiff's motion to amend. Defendants' motions to dismiss the original complaint will be denied without prejudice as moot.


A. Factual Background[2]

Plaintiff Lieutenant Anthony Carmichael was a member of the Camden City Police Department, from September 1994 until April 15, 2013. Since April 15, 2013, he has been employed as a Lieutenant with the Camden County Police Department. Plaintiff is African American. (Compl. ¶¶ 4, 11.)

Plaintiff was hired by the City Police Department in 1994. In 2003, he was promoted to Lieutenant. In July 2008, he was assigned to Internal Affairs as an "acting Captain" awaiting appointment to a permanent position of Captain. (Compl. ¶¶ 11-12, 19.) In being made acting Captain, Plaintiff became the direct supervisor of Lt. Sosinavage, who previously ran the Internal Affairs unit. (Compl. ¶¶ 19, 39.) Plaintiff became the immediate supervisor of the entire unit. (Compl. ¶ 19.)

At the time, the City Police Department was under a federal Consent Decree imposed by the District of New Jersey as a result of past irregular Internal Affairs practices. Under the Consent Decree, the police department was required to follow certain specified policies and procedures and had certain reporting requirements. As acting Captain of the Internal Affairs Unit, Plaintiff was charged with ensuring that the City complied with the Decree, overseeing the reporting requirements, and making sure that the Internal Affairs Department complied with the New Jersey Attorney General Guidelines, including the guidelines on investigating internal and external complaints of officer misconduct. (Compl. ¶¶ 28-32.) The Guidelines required the Internal Affairs unit to conduct full and complete investigations into all allegations of officer misconduct. (Compl. ¶ 41.) In the five years prior 2009, when Sosinavage in charge of the unit, the Internal Affairs unit had been in compliance with the Guidelines. (Compl. ¶ 39.)

Shortly after Plaintiff moved to Internal Affairs, in August 2008, Louis Vega was hired as a civilian police director for the City's police department. At around the same time, John Scott Thomson was promoted from Captain to Police Chief. As Chief, Thomson oversaw the Camden City Police Department and the Camden County Police Department and had final authority over decisions made in the department. (Compl. ¶¶ 13, 16-17.) Vega and Thomson consulted with each other on almost all decisions made within the police department.

Vega met with Plaintiff shortly after he first joined the City Police Department and told Plaintiff that he wanted to reprioritize Internal Affairs cases. According to Plaintiff, Vega wanted Plaintiff to "focus more on the rule infractions rather than the pending criminal/serious infractions." (Compl. ¶ 23.) He also told Plaintiff that he "wanted to put the officers out of work, teach them a lesson, ' and have them fight to get their jobs back." (Compl. ¶ 24.)

At another meeting with Vega and Thomson, Plaintiff was told that it was not necessary to follow the Attorney General Guidelines on investigating and charging in administrative cases. (Compl. ¶ 25.) Plaintiff voiced objections to violating the AG Guidelines to "several members of the City of Camden administration, " but the administration members told Plaintiff to discontinue the past practice of Internal Affairs. ((Compl. ¶¶ 25-26.)

On or around March 23, 2009, Plaintiff had a meeting with Thomson to brief him on the status of pending Internal Affairs investigations. Plaintiff told Thomson of one complaint alleging that certain officers with the rank of Inspector committed some misconduct against subordinate officers. (Compl. ¶¶ 42-45.) The investigation was not yet completed but the complaint appeared to be corroborated by eyewitnesses, and Plaintiff told Thomson that there should be a full and complete investigation into the allegations before disciplinary charges were filed against the Investigators. (Compl. ¶¶ 45, 47.) Thomson responded that "the tail is not going to wag the dog." (Compl. ¶ 49.)

At the same meeting, Plaintiff told Thomson of another Internal Affairs investigation in which Inspectors wrote a memo stating that a Sargent had committed several rule infractions. Again, Plaintiff stated his opinion that a full investigation was required before disciplinary charges were filed, since the Sergeant was alleged to have committed serious rule infractions and any disciplinary charges brought against him could result in severe penalties. (Compl. ¶¶ 51-54.) Plaintiff added that the department, including Thomson, could be in trouble for not fully investigating the allegations. (Compl. ¶ 57.) Thomson was "annoyed" and indicated that he would direct Plaintiff what to investigate and what not to investigate. (Compl. ¶ 55.)

On April 7, 2009, Thomson met with Sosinavage and asked about the two matters Plaintiff had raised during the March 23rd meeting. Sosinavage told Thomson that the investigations into those cases were not yet complete but that he would be able to complete them within time. Despite this, Thomson emailed Plaintiff the next day asking Plaintiff to prepare the Notices of Discipline for the officers and to have the document on his desk by noon. (Compl. ¶¶ 58-59.) Plaintiff objected to Thomson's order but asked Sosinavage to comply because Thomson was their superior officer. The order was drafted and placed on Thomson's desk that day. (Compl. ¶ 60.)

On April 10, 2009, two days after Sosinavage and Plaintiff Carmichael submitted the Notices of Discipline to Thomson, Vega and Inspector Michael Lynch met with Sosinavage and told him that he was also being transferred out of Internal Affairs. They told Sosinavage that he was being transferred into the midnight shift in the patrol ...

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