United States District Court, D. New Jersey
MICHAEL VAZQUEZ, U.S.D.J.
matter concerns the arrest of the wrong person, Plaintiff, by
New Jersey police officers in response to an outstanding
Maryland warrant. This Opinion addresses motions for summary
judgment filed by (1) South Plainfield Police Officer Mark
Bullock and Lieutenant Peter Arancio (the "Officer
Defendants") (D.E. 88); (2) the Borough of South
Plainfield and the South Plainfield Police Department (the
"South Plainfield Defendants") (D.E. 89); and (3)
the County of Middlesex and Middlesex County Office of Adult
Corrections and Youth Services (the "Middlesex
Defendants") (D.E. 91). Plaintiff Timothy Diaz opposed
the motions (D.E. 93, 96, 101), and Defendants filed briefs
in reply (D.E. 97, 98, 102). The Court reviewed the
submissions made in support and opposition to the motions,
and considered the motions without oral argument pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b) and L. Civ. R. 78.1(b). For the reasons
that follow, Defendants' motions are GRANTED as to
Plaintiffs Section 1983 claims. As a result, however, the
Court no longer has subject matter jurisdiction over this
matter. Therefore, the Court declines to exercise
supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiffs remaining state law
claims and this case is REMANDED to the Superior Court of New
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Timothy Jarah Elijah Diaz, an African American male, was born
in December 1988. At the time of the underlying incident,
Plaintiff was approximately 5 feet 11 inches tall; weighed
250 pounds; and lived in Plainfield, New Jersey. Plaintiffs
Statement of Material Facts ¶¶ 1-3; see
also Certification of Renee Biribin ("Biribin
Cert.") Ex. D. Plaintiff was mistakenly arrested
pursuant to an outstanding warrant for Timothy Joshua Diaz,
which was issued in Prince George's County, Maryland.
Plaintiff was arrested after a National Crime Information
Center ("NCIC") report alerted the New Jersey
officials as to the Maryland warrant. The wanted
"Timothy Diaz" was a Hispanic male who was born in
1993. The NCIC report, which was generated by Prince
George's County employees, indicated that the wanted
Timothy Diaz was approximately 5 feet 11 inches tall, weighed
140 pounds, was born in 1993, and lived in Maryland.
Id. Ex. E. The Prince George's County employees,
who have since been dismissed from this matter on
jurisdictional grounds, acknowledged that they incorrectly
entered Plaintiffs driver license number, FBI number, and
social security number into the NCIC report instead of the
correct information for the wanted Timothy Diaz.
Certification of John Gillick ("Gillick Cert.") Ex
I, T17:18-18:3; Ex. K, T27:21-32:7.
Saturday, July 14, 2013, South Plainfield Police Officer Mark
Bullock saw a car pull into the parking lot, without
signaling, of a Ramada Inn. Deposition Transcript of Mark
Bullock ("Bullock Dep.") T9:16-10:15; T14:4-12. The
hotel was an area known for criminal activity. Id.
As a result, Bullock "ran the plate" of the car. As
Bullock was running the plate, three men got out of the
vehicle and entered the hotel. Id. 14:6-24. After
the men entered the hotel, Bullock noticed that there was a
"hit" for Plaintiff, the registered owner of the
vehicle, as indicated by an NCIC report. The NCIC report
showed an active arrest warrant for Plaintiff from Prince
George's County. See Biribin Cert. Ex. E.
Bullock called dispatch to confirm that he actually had a
match and also notified his Lieutenant, Defendant Peter
Arancio. Bullock Dep. T15:4-13. Dispatch informed Bullock
that Plaintiff appeared to match the description of the
wanted individual and that dispatch was attempting to contact
the Prince George's County Sheriffs Department for
additional corroboration. Id. T31:20-23.
remained in his patrol car while waiting for confirmation.
During this time, Arancio and one other South Plainfield
police officer arrived. Id. T32:l-17. Eventually,
Bullock received the necessary confirmation from dispatch,
including verification that Prince George's County would
extradite the wanted Timothy Diaz if arrested. Id.
Arancio, and the other police officer then went to Plaintiffs
room in the Ramada Inn. When they arrived, one of the
officers asked Plaintiff if he was Timothy J. Diaz, to which
he answered "yes." The officers informed Plaintiff
that there was a warrant for his arrest and asked if he had
ever been to Maryland. Plaintiff told the officers he had
received a speeding ticket on I-95 in Maryland, but that he
had never been to Prince George's County. Deposition of
Timothy Diaz ("Diaz Dep.") at ¶ 1:14-24. Based
on this information, Plaintiff was arrested at the Ramada Inn
and brought to the South Plainfield Police Station for
booking. Bullock, however, noticed the weight discrepancy
between Plaintiff and the wanted Timothy Diaz before leaving
the motel. Bullock Dep. T40:4-14.
the police station, Plaintiff learned through the booking
process that the wanted Timothy Diaz had a different address,
middle name, and birthdate. Plaintiff tried explaining that
he was arrested by mistake and offered to show his birth
certificate and social security card, which Plaintiff carried
at all times. Diaz Dep. T22:21-9; PSOMF ¶ 6. According
to Plaintiff, the officers refused to look at either
document. Arancio, however, does not believe that Plaintiff
ever offered to show his birth certificate and does not
recall discussing the birthdate difference with Plaintiff.
Deposition Transcript of Timothy Arancio ("Arancio
Dep.") T21:11-22:2. Both Bullock and Arancia, however,
were aware of the birthdate discrepancy during the booking
process. Bullock Dep. T35:l 1-15; Arancia Dep. T20:19-23.
Despite knowledge of these differences, Plaintiff was not
fingerprinted and neither officer asked the Prince
George's County Sheriffs Department for a picture or
other information to confirm that they had arrested the
that evening, Plaintiff was processed and admitted to the
Middlesex County Adult Correction Center in North Brunswick,
New Jersey. Plaintiff was detained pursuant to a local
fugitive from justice warrant that was drafted by the South
Plainfield Police Department and a temporary commitment order
signed by a municipal court judge. Certification of Patrick
J. Bradshaw ("Bradshaw Cert.") Exs. L, M. The
record is not clear when Plaintiff first appeared before a
judge or when he first spoke with an attorney. Based on
Plaintiffs deposition testimony, however, it appears that
Plaintiff appeared before a judge on Sunday, the day after
his arrest, and retained an attorney by Monday. Diaz Dep.
T60:2-24. Plaintiff alleges that while he was detained at the
Correctional Center, the Middlesex Defendants ignored his
claim of mistaken identity. See, e.g., Id. T61:6-17.
a bail hearing on July 24, 2012, the Middlesex County
Prosecutor's Office contacted the Prince George's
County authorities to confirm that Plaintiff was the wanted
Timothy Diaz. After about an hour of research, Prince
George's County learned that the wanted Timothy Diaz had
been arrested by Maryland authorities on July 16, 2012.
Biribin Cert. Ex. H, T31:13-33:15. Plaintiff was released
that day, once the Middlesex County Department of Corrections
received a court order for Plaintiffs release. Certification
of Robert Grover, Jr. ¶ 5; Bradshaw Cert. Ex. O.
brought suit on June 12, 2013, in New Jersey state court
against Defendants alleging various tort claims and a claim
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendants removed the matter to
this Court on August 29, 2013. D.E. 1. Plaintiff filed an
Amended Complaint on June 19, 2014, that included additional
defendants who were affiliated with the Prince George's
County Sheriffs Department. D.E. 32. These additional
parties, however, were dismissed from the case due to lack of
personal jurisdiction. D.E. 55. After the close of discovery,
Defendants filed the current motions for summary judgment.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
moving party is entitled to summary judgment where "the
movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A fact in dispute is
material when it "might affect the outcome of the suit
under the governing law" and is genuine "if the
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Disputes
over irrelevant or unnecessary facts will not preclude
granting a motion for summary judgment. Id. "In
considering a motion for summary judgment, a district court
may not make credibility determinations or engage in any
weighing of the evidence; instead, the nonmoving party's
evidence 'is to be believed and all justifiable
inferences are to be drawn in his favor.'"
Marino v. Indus. Crating Co., 358 F.3d 241, 247 (3d
Cir. 2004) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255)). A
court's role in deciding a motion for summary judgment is
not to evaluate the evidence and decide the truth of the
matter but rather "to determine whether there is a
genuine issue for trial." Anderson, 477 U.S. at
moving for summary judgment has the initial burden of showing
the basis for its motion and must demonstrate that there is
an absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). After the
moving party adequately supports its motion, the burden
shifts to the nonmoving party to "go beyond the
pleadings and by [his] own affidavits, or by the depositions,
answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate
specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for
trial." Id. at 324 (internal quotation marks
omitted). To withstand a properly supported motion for
summary judgment, the nonmoving party must identify specific
facts and affirmative evidence that contradict the moving
party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250. "[I]f the
non-movant's evidence is merely 'colorable' or is
'not significantly probative, ' the court may grant
summary judgment." Messa v. Omaha Prop. & Cas.
Ins. Co., 122 F.Supp.2d 523, 528 (D.N.J. 2000) (quoting
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50)).
there is "no genuine issue as to any material fact"
if a party "fails to make a showing sufficient to
establish the existence of an element essential to that
party's case." Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at
322. "If reasonable minds could differ as to the import
of the evidence, " however, summary judgment is not
appropriate. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250-51.
Section 1983 Claims
1983 is not a source of substantive rights, instead it
provides a vehicle for vindicating the violation of other
federal rights. Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386,
393-94 (1989). Section 1983 provides, in relevant part:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance,
regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory ...
subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the
United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof
to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities
secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the
party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other
proper proceeding for redress[.]
42 U.S.C. § 1983. Thus, to establish a Section 1983
claim, a plaintiff must demonstrate that (1) there was a
violation of a right under the Constitution and (2) the
violation was caused by a person acting under color of state
law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48
Officer Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment
Officer Defendants contend that they are entitled to
qualified immunity for the Section 1983 claim. Qualified
immunity "shields government agents from liability for
civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate
clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of
which a reasonable person would have known." Thomas
v. Independence Township, 463 F.3d 285, 291 (3d Cir.
2006) (quoting Behrens v. Pelletier, 516 U.S. 299,
305 (1996)). In determining whether qualified immunity
exists, a court must assess whether (1) the facts alleged by
plaintiff show the violation of a constitutional right; and
(2) the plaintiffs constitutional right was clearly
established at the time of the violation. Saucier v.
Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201 (2001), overruled in part on
other grounds by Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223
(2009). See also Egolf v. Witmer, 526 F.3d 104,
109-11 (3d Cir. 2008) (reviewing the two-step inquiry that
generally occurs in a qualified immunity analysis).
Section 1983 claim as to the Officer Defendants appears to be
based on false arrest and false imprisonment. Am. Compl.
¶¶ 46-47. The Fourth Amendment protects against
unreasonable seizures of the person. See U.S. Const,
amend. IV. The Fourth Amendment, in turn, is applicable to
the States through the Fourteenth Amendment. Baker v.
McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 142 (1979). The proper inquiry
in a Section 1983 claim based on false arrest is whether the
arresting officer had probable cause to make the arrest.
Groman v. Township of Manalapan, 47 F.3d 628, 634
(3d Cir. 1995) (quoting Dowling v. City of
Philadelphia, 855 F.2d 136, 141 (3d Cir. 1988)). In
addition, a false imprisonment claim is based on "the
Fourteenth Amendment protection against deprivations of
liberty without due process of law." Id. at
636. A false imprisonment claim that "is based on an
arrest without probable cause is grounded in the Fourth
Amendment's guarantee against unreasonable
seizures." Id. at 636. An unlawful detention
outside this context may still give rise to a false
imprisonment claim but such a claim is premised solely on the
Fourteenth Amendment. Potts v. City of Philadelphia,
224 F.Supp.2d 919, 937 (E.D. Pa. 2002). As is discussed
below, the Court concludes that after a person is initially
arrested pursuant to probable cause, it is the Due Process
Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, rather than the Fourth
Amendment, that provides the appropriate avenue for redress
whether the person is asserting a claim for false arrest or
arrest warrant issued by a magistrate or judge does not, in
itself, shelter an officer from liability for false
arrest." Wilson v. Russo,212 F.3d 781, 786 (3d
Cir. 2000). At the same time, "when the police have
probable cause to arrest one party, and when they reasonably
mistake a second party for the first party, then the arrest
of the second party is a valid arrest." Hill v.
California,401 U.S. 797, 802 (1971). Thus, in assessing
whether probable cause existed in the case of a
mistaken-identity arrest, a court ...