United States District Court, D. New Jersey
ALEXANDER R. SHALOM, JEANNE LOCICERO, ALEXI MACHEK VELEZ
AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION OF NEW JERSEY FOUNDATION,
MARGUERITE KNEISSER CARLUCCIO LEONE DIMON DOYLE & SACKS
LLC, On behalf of Plaintiff
MALVIN SERLIN On behalf of Defendant Hon. Dennis P. McInerney
in his official capacity, Township of Burlington, and
Township of Burlington Municipal Court
L. SLIMM, MARSHALL, DENNEHEY, WARNER, COLEMAN & GOGGIN,
PC, WOODLAND FALLS CORPORATE PARK On behalf of Defendant Hon.
Dennis P. McInerney in his individual capacity
L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.
matter concerns Plaintiff's claims that his
constitutional rights were violated at the Township of
Burlington Municipal Court when he was sent to jail because
he was unable to pay a fine imposed for a littering offense.
Pending before the Court are Plaintiff's and
Defendants' motions for summary judgment, as well as
Plaintiff's motion to amend his complaint to add the
court administrator as a defendant. For the reasons expressed
below, the Court will grant Plaintiff partial summary
judgment, allow amendment, grant Plaintiff's motion to
seal, and will, on the present record, deny Defendants'
motions for summary judgment.
Anthony Kneisser, filed this action against Defendant, Dennis
P. McInerney, J.S.C. ("Judge McInerney"), the
Presiding Judge of all municipal courts in Burlington County,
New Jersey, the Township of Burlington
("Township"), and the Township of Burlington
Municipal Court ("Municipal Court"), alleging that
Defendants violated his civil rights under the Fourth, Fifth,
Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the
United States and the Constitution of the State of New
Jersey. Plaintiff has also lodged claims against Defendants
under New Jersey state law for unlawful imprisonment,
intentional infliction of emotional distress, false arrest
and false imprisonment.
claims arise from Plaintiff's appearance before Judge
McInerney at the Township's Municipal Court in May 2014
for a summons he received for throwing a cigarette butt from
the window of his car in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-64. The
maximum penalty for violating this statute is a fine ($200
minimum to $1, 000 maximum for each offense) which a
defendant can satisfy through the mail, over the phone, or
online. At the time, Plaintiff was a twenty year-old college
student employed part-time as a line cook making $9.00 an
hour. He worked approximately 15-20 hours per week making
about $150 each paycheck. Plaintiff alleges he lacked
sufficient funds to pay the imposed fine in full prior to the
hearing date set on his summons and called the Municipal
Court to determine whether there were any alternatives to
paying the fine in full. He was advised that because he could
not pay the fine in full, an appearance in court was
details of what occurred at the Municipal Court are set forth
in Plaintiff's complaint. On May 27, 2014, Mr. Kneisser
appeared before Judge McInerney in the Burlington Township
Municipal Court for his first appearance to plead guilty and
request a payment plan or community service in order to
satisfy the charges in full. The entire amount of the
offense, with court costs and fees, was $239. When Mr.
Kneisser entered the courtroom, he first spoke to the
Municipal Prosecutor to request payment alternatives. He was
advised by the Prosecutor to make his request to Judge
Kneisser sat and waited for his name to be called. During
this time, Judge McInerney rendered his opening remarks as
After your case is heard you'11 be asked to check out
with the administrator. The administrator is out at the
window where everyone checked in, everyone that has a case
here today needs to check out with the administrator before
you leave the court house. If a fine is imposed in your case
the fine is due today. If you're not prepared to pay the
fine, you need to make a phone call, make whatever
arrangements are necessary so you'11 be in a position to
pay your fine today. If you refuse to pay your fine, I will
sentence you to the county jail. Now the court does accept
credit card payments, so we try to make it as convenient as
we can for you to pay your fine. On the other hand, as I
said, if you refuse to make a payment, I'll sentence you
to the county jail.
(May 27, 2014 Hearing Transcript, pp. 5-6).
Kneisser then appeared before Judge McInerney, at which time
Judge McInerney asked how he wished to plea. Mr. Kneisser
indicated that he wished to plead guilty but that he was
present to determine whether there was an alternative to
paying the fine in full on that date. Such alternatives
included performing community service or being placed on a
payment plan. Judge McInerney advised that there would be no
penalty imposed other than a fine due in full and ordered him
to return to the payment window to pay. Specifically, Judge
McInerney stated as follows:
THE COURT: Anthony, it looks like Kneisser, come on up, sir.
You're charged with throwing an object from the vehicle.
There's a $100 fine for that - actually, there's a
$200 fine for that offense. You have the right to be
represented by a lawyer. If you can't afford one, you can
apply to have one appointed. Do you understand that?
MR. KNEISSER: Yes.
THE COURT: Are you ready to proceed without a lawyer?
MR. KNEISSER: Yes.
THE COURT: How do you wish to plea?
MR. KNEISSER: I mean, I'm guilty, but I was hoping
there's a way to avoid the fine. Can I do some community
service or something?
THE COURT: No. There's no way to avoid the fine. What did
you throw out of the vehicle?
MR. KNEISSER: Cigarette butt on the turnpike.
THE COURT: All right, there's a $206 fine, $33 court
costs. The statute specifically mentions cigarettes and
MR. KNEISSER: All right.
THE COURT: It's a $206 fine, $33 court costs. Either you
use an ashtray or quit smoking. Check out at the window.
(May 27 Tr., p. 8, ¶1-3) .
Kneisser acquiesced and returned to the Clerk's window.
At the window, the Burlington Township Municipal Court's
payment policy was clearly expressed in a posted sign. It
stated as follows:
IF YOUR FINES TOTAL OVER $2 00:
YOU ARE REQUIRED TO MAKE AT
A $200 PAYMENT TODAY
IF YOUR FINES TOTAL $200 OR LESS:
YOU ARE REQUIRED TO PAY YOUR
FINE IN FULL TODAY
Kneisser advised the Clerk that he was unable to pay the
minimum $200 required fine and was given a "Financial
Questionnaire to Establish Indigency" to fill out. Mr.
Kneisser filled out the form and requested a payment plan.
Kneisser then returned to the courtroom, at which time the
following brief colloquy took place:
THE COURT: Anthony Kneisser. Come on up, sir. You have 239,
how much are you paying today?
MR. KNEISSER: I don't have anything today.
THE COURT: When can you make a payment?
MR. KNEISSER: Early June.
THE COURT: I'm sorry?
MR. KNEISSER: Early June.
THE COURT: You need to make a payment today, sir. Go make a
MR. KNEISSER: I don't have anyone that (indiscernible).
THE COURT: All right. I'll sentence you to five days in
jail. Go ...