United States District Court, D. New Jersey
K.J., individually and on behalf of K.J., Jr, et al., Plaintiffs,
GREATER EGG HARBOR REGIONAL HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD OF EDUCATION, et al., Defendants.
B. KUGLER United States District Judge
matter comes before the Court on the Motion for Summary
Judgment of Defendant Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office
(“ACPO”). (Doc. No. 110.) This Court previously
dismissed Atlantic County prosecutors Anne Crater, Esq. and
Lauren Kirk, Esq. from this matter because the claims against
them were barred by sovereign and prosecutorial immunities.
(See Doc. No. 104.) The question before the Court
today is: on summary judgment, must the Court dismiss a
state-law claim of negligent hiring against the ACPO if the
prosecutors themselves are immune to suit?
ACPO's moving brief today distills to an argument that
the immunity of the prosecutors either extends to the ACPO or
else prevents the attachment of respondeat superior. Neither
apply here. Negligent hiring is a tort separate and distinct
from malicious prosecution and therefore does not implicate
the same issues of immunity. Respondeat superior does not
implicate negligent hiring. And in any event the ACPO's
motion is plainly deficient and fails to comply with the
minor procedural burdens imposed by Rule 56. We therefore
dismiss the ACPO's motion for summary judgment.
Court has previously endeavored to chart the twists and turns
of this case and will only briefly revisit them here.
See Dec. 30, 2017 Opinion at 2-10 (Doc. No. 88);
Aug. 26, 2015 Opinion at 2-10 (Doc. No. 57); April 21, 2015
Opinion at 2-10 (Doc. No. 51). We focus today on the role of
the ACPO in this litigation. In late 2012, shortly after the
events of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings,
Plaintiff was called out of his high school class after a
teacher saw a drawing that bore some resemblance to a weapon.
This led to a search of Plaintiff's home by the police, a
flame-throwing device was uncovered, and some time later the
Prosecutor's Office was contacted. They charged Plaintiff
with a crime, and a New Jersey judge ordered Plaintiff's
detention for two weeks. He was subsequently placed under
house arrest. At a criminal trial at a later date, all
charges were dismissed. This suit, encompassing a wide
spectrum of activities and defendants, was thereafter filed.
The aspect of this dispute before the Court today addresses
the hiring of the prosecutors Anne Crater, Esq. and Lauren
Kirk, Esq., who, it is alleged, detained Plaintiff with an
improper purpose and maliciously prosecuted him. Whether they
did so is beside the point, for the prosecutors themselves
are dismissed on the basis of immunity. But the question of
the liability of the Prosecutor's Office still lingers.
previously held that “negligent hiring claims against
the Prosecutor's Office . . . are not barred by sovereign
immunity.” See April 21, 2015 Opinion, Doc.
No. 51 at 24 (citing Coleman v. Kaye, 87 F.3d 1491,
1499 (3d Cir. 1996)). In that decision, we dismissed
“all of Plaintiff's federal and state law claims .
. . with the exception of the negligent hiring claims in
Counts XIII and XXV.” Id. at 25. In the Fifth
Amended Complaint, these claims have since become Counts 9
and 20. Count 9 is identical to the former Count XIII; Count
20 has taken a slightly different tack. (FAC at 50-55;
96-104.) In this Court's decision of December 30, 2016,
we noted that the ACPO had moved to dismiss Counts XIII and
XXV, presumably referring to Count 20 of the FAC, and denied
the ACPO's motion to dismiss for failing to comply with
recently, on December 1, 2017, this Court issued an order
seeking clarification of the motion for summary judgment and
additional supplemental briefing on the matter. The ACPO
responded by notifying the Court that it was indeed only
moving for summary judgment on the state law claim, and that
it intended to move for summary judgment on the § 1983
claim at a later date. (Doc. No. 144.)
judgment is appropriate where the Court is satisfied that
“there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact
and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 (1986). A genuine dispute of
material fact exists only if the evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could find for the nonmoving party.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986). When a court weighs the evidence presented by the
parties, “[t]he evidence of the non-movant is to be
believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in
his favor.” Id. at 255.
burden of establishing the nonexistence of a “genuine
issue” is on the party moving for summary judgment.
Aman v. Cort Furniture Rental Corp., 85 F.3d 1074,
1080 (3d Cir. 1996). The moving party may satisfy its burden
either by “produc[ing] evidence showing the absence of
a genuine issue of material fact” or by
“‘showing'-that is, pointing out to the
district court-that there is an absence of evidence to
support the nonmoving party's case.”
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325.
party seeking summary judgment makes this showing, it is left
to the nonmoving party to “do more than simply show
that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material
facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Rather, to survive
summary judgment, the nonmoving party must “make a
showing sufficient to establish the existence of [every]
element essential to that party's case, and on which that
party will bear the burden of proof at trial.”
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. Furthermore, “[w]hen
opposing summary judgment, the nonmovant may not rest upon
mere allegations, but rather must ‘identify those facts
of record which would contradict the facts identified by the
movant.'” Corliss v. Varner, 247
Fed.Appx.. 353, 354 (3d Cir. Sept. 17, 2007) (quoting
Port Auth. of N.Y. and N.J. v. Affiliated FM Ins.
Co., 311 F.3d 226, 233 (3d Cir. 2002)).
deciding the merits of a party's motion for summary
judgment, the Court's role is not to evaluate the
evidence and decide the truth of the matter, but to determine
whether there is a genuine issue for trial.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. Credibility
determinations are the province of the fact finder. Big
Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of N. Am., Inc., 974 F.2d 1358,
1363 (3d Cir. 1992).
ACPO, in its moving brief (which is exceptionally brief),
states that dismissal “will be granted in part on the
basis of sovereign immunity, ” but does not develop
this further. What the brief focuses on instead is “a
claim for negligent hiring.” There has been some
confusion about the singularity of “claim” in the
ACPO's briefing, and we directed the parties to produce
supplemental briefing on this. Even now, after subsequent
communications attempting to clarify matters for the Court
(see Doc. No. 144), the ACPO continues to say that
“negligent hiring” is the “only
claim.” It is not. Review of this Court's April 21,
2015 confirms the contrary. See April 21, 2015
Opinion at 25 (“all of Plaintiffs federal and state law
claims are dismissed as to the Prosecutor's Office, with
the exception of the negligent ...