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Ocasio v. County of Hudson

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

February 5, 2018

LUIS OCASIO, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF HUDSON; HUDSON COUNTRY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS; KIRK EADY, individually and in his official capacity as Deputy Directory of Hudson County Department of Corrections; OSCAR AVILES, individually and in his official capacity as Director of Hudson County Department of Corrections; THOMAS A. DEGISE, individually and in his official capacity as Country Executive; TRISH NALLS-CASTILLO, individually and in her official capacity as provisional/acting Deputy Director and/or Director of Hudson County Department of Corrections, Defendants.

          OPINION

          WILLIAM J. MARTINI, U.S.D.J.

         Plaintiff Luis Ocasio brings this action against the County of Hudson (“County”), its Department of Corrections (“DOC”), and four County officials (collectively “Defendants”), alleging multiple violations of state and federal law, in connection with Defendants' harassment of Plaintiff during his employment at the DOC. This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Aviles' motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). There was no oral argument. Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b). For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion to dismiss is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff worked at the Hudson County DOC as a Corrections Officer and served as President of the Policemen's Benevolent Association (“PBA”) during all relevant times. Second Am. Compl. (“2d Compl.”) ¶ 3, ECF No. 68. Defendant Aviles worked as the Director of the DOC during all relevant times. Id. ¶ 8. On February 7, 2014, Plaintiff and four others filed a complaint against Defendants, alleging multiple violations of state and federal law. ECF No. 1. On September 9, 2016, the parties agreed to dismiss the case without prejudice, pending the outcome of parallel criminal proceedings. ECF No. 66. On September 7, 2017, Plaintiff refiled his complaint (“Complaint”) with an amendment. The other four plaintiffs filed a new complaint under a separate docket number. See 2d Compl. ¶ 2. All Defendants except for Aviles have answered Plaintiff's Complaint in lieu of filing motions to dismiss. See ECF Nos. 70 & 72.

         The Complaint alleges the following facts. In 2011, the PBA began investigating the titles of top administrators at the DOC and their entitlement to remain in the PBA's pension system, including Defendants Eady and Aviles. See 2d Compl. ¶ 21. The investigation uncovered that Defendants Eady and Aviles, among others, held civilian titles but remained in the pension system. Id. ¶ 22. Subsequently, Plaintiff and others began receiving threatening phone calls from Eady. Id. ¶ 25. The PBA filed a formal grievance with Director Aviles in March 2012, in which it outlined multiple retaliatory measures undertaken by Eady. Id. ¶¶ 27-30. The PBA sent a follow-up letter to Aviles shortly thereafter seeking immediate intervention but none of its correspondence resulted in corrective action by the DOC. Id. ¶ 31.

         Later that month, Aviles changed the DOC's disciplinary policy to enable Eady to issue disciplinary charges and impose discipline against DOC employees. Id. ¶ 36. In May 2012, Plaintiff learned that Eady planned to retaliate further against him, which caused him to fear for his career. Id. ¶¶ 37-38. Director Aviles again learned of threats made by Eady to Plaintiff and others and he again did nothing. See id. ¶¶ 41-42. In June 2012, a confidential informant working with the FBI and close friend of Eady's (the “Informant”) informed Plaintiff that Eady had been recording phone conversations between Plaintiff and other PBA officials, at which point Plaintiff notified the FBI. Id. ¶¶ 47-52. The Informant advised Plaintiff of other threats made by Eady against Plaintiff and others. Id. ¶¶ 53-60. Eady undertook other retaliatory measures against Plaintiff for reporting an incident of sexual harassment to Internal Affairs that involved Eady's friend. Id. ¶¶ 63-76.

         On October 19, 2012, Plaintiff suffered an anxiety attack and was put on medical leave because of the stress caused by Eady's retaliation. Id. ¶ 77. Plaintiff did not return to work until the end of February 2013. Id. ¶ 80. On January 14, 2014, Eady was arrested on one count of illegal wiretapping. Id. ¶ 85. Plaintiff alleges that Eady used a website called “Evil Operator” to record his phone conversations while he was President of the PBA, in an effort to obtain an unfair advantage and to learn privileged, sensitive and confidential information about officer discipline and union contract negotiations, among other things. See id. ¶¶ 92-100.

         Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint asserts 13 causes of action:

(1) Count 1: unlawful interception of Plaintiff's wire communication under 18 U.S.C. § 2511(1)(a), see id. ¶¶ 108-11;
(2) Count 2: unlawful disclosure and use of Plaintiff's wire communication under 18 U.S.C. §§ 2511(c) and (d), see id. ¶¶ 112-15;
(3) Count 3: violation of the New Jersey wiretapping statute, N.J.S.A. 2A:156-1, see id. ¶¶ 116-19;
(4) Count 4: invasion of privacy by intrusion upon seclusion, see id. ¶¶ 120-25;
(5) Count 5: violation of Plaintiff's privacy rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, N.J.S.A. 10:6-1, the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and Article I, Paragraph 1 of the N.J. Constitution, see id. ¶¶ 126-38;
(6) Count 6: violation of Plaintiff's free speech and association rights under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, N.J.S.A. 10:6-1, the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and Article I, Paragraph 6 of the ...

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