United States District Court, D. New Jersey
H. RODRIGUEZ U.S.D.J.
matter is before the Court on motions of Defendants Atlantic
County  and Lauren Laielli, Christopher Dodson, Victor E.
Guadalupe, Paulo Pereira, Harry R. Albert, and Frank X.
Balles  for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 56. Oral argument was heard on the record on
March 5, 2018. For the reasons placed on the record that day,
as well as those stated here, the motion of Atlantic County
will be granted and the individual defendants' motion
will be denied.
Victoria Matos and Bruce Bullock, were employed by the New
Jersey Department of Children and Families as Family Service
Specialists. Plaintiffs allege that they were wrongfully
arrested and prosecuted in connection with their November 6,
2014 work assignment of escorting a juvenile to a court
hearing in the Atlantic County Courthouse.
allege that upon entering the courthouse, the juvenile was
confronted by a sheriff's officer, but ignored a
direction from one of the officers and proceeded to enter the
elevator with Bullock. At that point, multiple sheriff's
deputies entered the elevator, restrained, and allegedly
assaulted the juvenile. Bullock witnessed the assault, but
allegedly did not interfere in any way. As Matos approached
the elevator, she was pushed out of the way by one of the
sheriff's officers. After the juvenile was taken into
custody by the sheriffs, Matos complained about the way she
was treated and the way the juvenile had been treated.
Bullock left the courthouse to go to his vehicle and retrieve
paperwork, he was followed by several of the individual
defendants and he used his phone to record their actions.
This resulted in the sheriffs placing him in handcuffs and
bringing him into the courthouse in their custody. Defendant
Albert allegedly told Bullock that he would be released and
no further action would be taken if he deleted the video that
he had taken.
the Defendants learned that Plaintiffs intended to file an
internal affairs complaint against them, Plaintiffs allege
that they collectively decided to file criminal charges
against the Plaintiffs, knowing that there was no basis for
those charges. Plaintiffs were fired from their jobs based on
the false allegations of the Defendants. The charges against
them proceeded to trial in the Atlantic City Municipal Court,
where they were acquitted of all charges.
he was not involved in the original encounter with
Plaintiffs, Defendant Balles is alleged to have ratified and
endorsed the arrest and prosecution of the Plaintiffs for the
purpose of protecting the sheriff's officers from civil
liability and other consequences of their misconduct.
Further, Balles allegedly made it clear to the
Plaintiffs' criminal attorneys that his office was
prosecuting the Plaintiffs to protect the Atlantic County
Sheriff's Office from criticism and civil liability, and
that all charges could be dropped in exchange for an
agreement protecting the sheriff and his officers.
have brought their claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
as well as New Jersey state law. This Court has jurisdiction
over Plaintiff's federal claims under 28 U.S.C. §
1331, and supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's
state law claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1367.
judgment is proper if there is no genuine issue of material
fact and if, viewing the facts in the light most favorable to
the non-moving party, the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” Pearson v. Component
Tech. Corp., 247 F.3d 471, 482 n.1 (3d Cir. 2001)
(citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322
(1986)); accord Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 (a). Thus, the Court
will enter summary judgment in favor of a movant who shows
that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, and
supports the showing that there is no genuine dispute as to
any material fact by “citing to particular parts of
materials in the record, including depositions, documents,
electronically stored information, affidavits or
declarations, stipulations . . . admissions, interrogatory
answers, or other materials.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56
issue is “genuine” if supported by evidence such
that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in the
nonmoving party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is
“material” if, under the governing substantive
law, a dispute about the fact might affect the outcome of the
suit. Id. In determining whether a genuine issue of
material fact exists, the court must view the facts and all
reasonable inferences drawn from those facts in the light
most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587
the moving party has the burden of demonstrating the absence
of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the moving party
has met this burden, the nonmoving party must identify, by
affidavits or otherwise, specific facts showing that there is
a genuine issue for trial. Id.; Maidenbaum v.
Bally'sPark Place, Inc., 870 F.Supp. 1254,
1258 (D.N.J. 1994). Thus, to withstand a properly supported
motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must
identify specific facts and affirmative evidence that
contradict those offered by the moving party.
Andersen, 477 U.S. at 256-57. “A nonmoving
party may not ‘rest upon mere allegations, general
denials or . . . vague statements . . . ...