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Schweizer v. Middle Township Mayor

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

April 30, 2018

STEPHEN SCHWEIZER, Plaintiff,
v.
MIDDLE TOWNSHIP MAYOR AND GOVERNING BODY, POLICEMAN JEFFREY SALVESEN, POLICEWOMAN MARY CREAMER, POLICEMAN STEVEN HANSE, JOHN DOE S A-Z, Defendants.

          KEITH J. GENTES MALAMUT & ASSOCIATES, LLC On behalf of Plaintiff

          A. MICHAEL BARKER BARKER, GELFAND & JAMES LINWOOD GREENE On behalf of Defendants.

          OPINION

          NOEL L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.

         This matter concerns claims by Plaintiff that Middle Township, New Jersey police officers used excessive force during a traffic stop. Presently before the Court is the motion of Defendants “Middle Township Mayor and Governing Body” to dismiss Plaintiff's claims against them. For the reasons expressed below, Defendants' motion will be granted.

         BACKGROUND

         On February 14, 2015, Plaintiff, Stephen Schweizer, was driving his car on Route 47 in Middle Township, Cape May County, New Jersey. Plaintiff claims that he was on his way home, which was a short distance away, and he was obeying the 25 mph speed limit and all traffic signals and road signs. Plaintiff claims that Defendant Officer Jeffrey Salvesen was operating his Middle Township police vehicle and noticed that Plaintiff's car had a flat tire. Plaintiff claims that Salvesen turned on his overhead lights in an attempt to stop Plaintiff, but Plaintiff did not pull over. Plaintiff claims that he continued driving the speed limit to his home, and pulled into his driveway.

         Plaintiff claims that Salvesen pulled in front of Plaintiff's house, got out of his police vehicle, drew his weapon, and proceeded to run toward Plaintiff. Plaintiff claims that Salvesen holstered his weapon and without provocation, physically tackled Plaintiff to the ground placing him face down on his concrete driveway. Plaintiff claims that Salvesen was joined by Defendant Officer Mary Creamer, and both officers proceeded to beat Plaintiff with their closed fists, knees, and elbows, despite the fact that Plaintiff was not asserting any substantial resistance other than to protect himself from the physical assault by the two officers.

         Plaintiff claims that Defendants smashed his head onto the concrete driveway, causing him to lose consciousness. Plaintiff also claims that other officers appeared at the scene and he was further beaten and sprayed in the eyes with Oleoresin Capsicum spray while he lay handcuffed on the ground. Plaintiff claims that Defendants' beating caused him to suffer a traumatic brain injury, fractured nose, fractured orbital bones, permanent back, neck and other injuries.

         Plaintiff alleges that the officers' actions constituted excessive force and a violation of the Township's Use of Force Policy, New Jersey Attorney General's Use of Force Policy, and the New Jersey Police Training Commission Performance Objectives. Plaintiff also claims that other officers failed to intervene to protect him from the unlawful use of force by Salvesen, Creamer, and the other officers who beat him. Plaintiff further claims that Salvesen and Creamer filed false charges against him for aggravated assault in order to cover up their unlawful use of force.

         Based on these claims, Plaintiff alleges violations of his Fourth Amendment rights against Salvesen, Creamer, and Defendant Officer Steven Hanse for their use of excessive force, and for assault and battery under New Jersey state law.[1] Plaintiff has asserted claims against “Middle Township Mayor and Governing Body” for failing to properly train Middle Township officers in the use of force, by fostering a policy and custom of using unlawful force, and hiring Hanse even though he had a history of civil rights abuses.

         Defendants “Middle Township Mayor and Governing Body” have moved to dismiss Plaintiff's claims against them for Plaintiff's lack of specificity as to the identity of the mayor and the members of the governing body, and how those individuals violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights. Defendants additionally move do dismiss what appear to be claims against the Township for municipal liability under Monell v. Dept. of Social Services of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978) because of Plaintiff's boilerplate pleading without any factual underpinning as to how liability could be imposed against the municipality. Plaintiff has not opposed Defendants' motion.

         DISCUSSION

         A. Subject matter jurisdiction

         Plaintiff has brought claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and New Jersey state law. This Court has jurisdiction over Plaintiff's federal claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and supplemental jurisdiction ...


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