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Castellani v. City of Atlantic City

United States District Court, D. New Jersey, Camden Vicinage

March 31, 2017

CITY OF ATLANTIC CITY, et al., Defendants.



         Presently pending before the court is a motion [D.I. 219] filed by Plaintiff David Connor Castellani (hereinafter, “Plaintiff”) seeking to quash a second subpoena served upon non-party Jill Houck, the Director (hereinafter, the “Director”) of the Atlantic-Cape May County Superior Court Pretrial Intervention Program (hereinafter, “PTI”) for documents related to Plaintiff's entry into the PTI program following an indictment on a number of charges stemming from an arrest on June 15, 2013. (See Plaintiff's Motion to Quash Subpoena (hereinafter, “Pl.'s Mot.”) [D.I. 219].) The Director has also filed a Motion to Quash [D.I. 238] in support of Plaintiff's motion. (See Second Motion to Quash Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 45 (hereinafter, “Director's Mot.”) [D.I. 238].) Defendant Officers Darren Lorady, Avette Harper, Kevin Law, Scott Sendrick, and Matthew Rogers (hereinafter, “Defendant Officers”) oppose the motions of Plaintiff [D.I. 244] and the Director [D.I. 245]. (See Defendants' Opposition to Plaintiff's Second Motion to Quash Subpoena to PTI Director (hereinafter, “Defs.' Opp'n to Pl.”) [D.I. 244]; see also Defendants' Opposition to Non-Party Jill Houck's Motion to Quash Subpoena to PTI Director (hereinafter, “Defs.' Opp'n to the Director”) [D.I. 245].) Defendant Officer Sterling Wheaten joins in Co-Defendants' opposition. (See Statement of Intention to Join in Opposition by Defendants [D.I. 246].) For the reasons set forth herein, the motions by Plaintiff [D.I. 219] and the Director [D.I. 238] are granted.

         These motions seek to quash a second subpoena served upon the Director in this matter. The Court previously granted motions to quash a previous subpoena served upon the Director by Order dated June 30, 2016. See Castellani v. City of Atlantic City, No. 13-5848, 2016 WL 7131578, at *1 (D.N.J. June 30, 2016). The Court will therefore restate the background of this case pertinent to these motions as set forth in the prior Order:

In this action, Plaintiff David Connor Castellani seeks damages for injuries he sustained when he was arrested by police officers of the Atlantic City Police Department on June 15, 2013 following an incident at the Tropicana Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (See generally Amended Complaint [D.I. 7].) While Plaintiff admits that he was intoxicated at the time, he asserts that certain officers physically assaulted him and that one officer directed a canine to attack him. (See id.) Plaintiff has asserted claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Defendant Officers, as well as Defendant Sergeant Daryl Hall and Defendant City of Atlantic City (hereinafter, “Defendant Atlantic City”). (See generally id.)
In February 2015, a New Jersey state grand jury sitting in Mays Landing, New Jersey, indicted Plaintiff on three criminal counts relating to the June 15, 2013 incident: “(1) aggravated assault upon a police officer; (2) resisting arrest; and (3) infliction of harm upon an enforcement animal.” (See Defs.' Opp. [D.I. 115], 5.) Thereafter, on July 23, 2015 Plaintiff was granted admission to the PTI program. Id. On or about September 23, 2015, the Director was served with a subpoena which sought the production of “[a]ny and all documents related to and/or referring to David Connor Castellani's application to the State of New Jersey Pre-Trial Intervention Program related to criminal charges as a result of an incident that occurred on or about June 15, 2013.” (See Pl.'s Motion, Ex. A [D.I. 104-2], 2.)


         In the Court's prior order, the Court granted the Defendant Officers leave to serve a revised subpoena setting forth specifically the categories of information Defendants sought from the PTI application. See id. at *5. On August 1, 2016, the Director was served via certified mail with a second subpoena. (See Brief in Support of Non-party Jill Houck's Motion to Quash Second Subpoena (hereinafter, “Director's Br.”) [D.I. 238-2], 5-6.) The second subpoena demanded the Director produce to Defendant Officers “Plaintiff's statement in connection with his PTI application; any witness statements offered in support or connection with Plaintiff's PTI application; any character witness statement offered in support of Plaintiff; and any written responses to questions provided by Plaintiff in connection with his PTI application.” (See Pl.'s Motion, Ex. A [D.I. 219-2], 2.)[1]

         As set forth previously by the Court in its prior Order:

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1), as amended, “[p]arties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case, considering the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties' relative access to relevant information, the parties' resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1)[2]. Under Rule 26, a party may seek to avoid production of otherwise relevant information on the basis that the production is protected by a privilege. Pearson v. Miller, 211 F.3d 57, 65 (3d Cir. 2000). In the context of discovery served upon a non-party, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 45, the court “must quash or modify a subpoena that . . . (iii) requires disclosure of privileged or other protected matter, if no exception or waiver applies.” Fed. r. Civ. P. 45(d)(3)(A)(iii).

Castellani, 2016 WL 7131578 at *2 (D.N.J. June 30, 2016).

         At the outset, and for the reasons set forth in the Court's previous Order granting the motion to quash, Plaintiff has standing to file the current motion because “Plaintiff claims a personal right or privilege with respect to the documents sought by the subpoena.” Id.

         Under Rule 501 of the Federal Rules of Evidence, [3]“federal privileges apply to federal law claims, and state privileges apply to claims arising under state law[, ]” but “‘when there are federal law claims in a case also presenting state law claims, the federal rule favoring admissibility, rather than any state law privilege, is the controlling rule.'” Pearson, 211 F.3d at 66 (quoting Wm. T. Thompson Co. v. General Nutrition Corp., 671 F.2d 100, 104 (3d Cir. 1982)). Thus, “[w]here ... there are both federal and state law claims, federal privileges rather than state privileges apply to all claims.” Wei v. Bodner, 127 F.R.D. 91, 94 (D.N.J. 1989) (citing Wm. T. Thompson Co., 671 F.2d at 104). As noted by the Court in the prior Order, as Plaintiff in this case has alleged both federal and state law claims, the Court will apply the federal law of privilege to all claims. See Castellani, 2016 WL 7131578 at *2 (citing Wei, 127 F.R.D. at 94).

         The Court previously found that the PTI file is “clearly protected from disclosure in civil matters under New Jersey law.” Id. at *4. N.J.S.A. 2C:43-13(f) provides “that no statements by a PTI participant undergoing supervisory treatment be admitted into evidence in any civil or criminal proceeding ‘against the participant.'”[4] Id. at *3 (quoting N.J.S.A. 2C:43-13(f)). Similarly, N.J. Ct. R. 3:28(c), the state court rule governing pretrial intervention programs, provides:

(5) No statement or other disclosure regarding the charge or charges against the participant made or disclosed by a participant in pretrial intervention to a person designated to provide supervisory treatment shall be disclosed by such person at any time, to the prosecutor, nor shall any such statement or disclosure be admitted as evidence in any civil or criminal proceeding against the participant, provided that the criminal division manager shall not be prevented from informing the ...

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