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Brookman v. Township of Hillside

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

September 12, 2018

BARBARA BROOKMAN, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
TOWNSHIP OF HILLSIDE, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          MARK FALK UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court upon Plaintiffs' motion for leave to amend their Complaint. (CM/ECF No. 60.) The motion is opposed. The motion is decided on the papers. Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b). For the reasons set forth below, the motion is denied.

         BACKGROUND

         A. Factual and Procedural History

         This civil rights action arises out of the arrest of Barbara Brookman and her two sons, Howard and Jeffrey Brookman (collectively “Plaintiffs”) by the Defendant Hillside Police Department (“Hillside PD”) on May 9, 2007. According to Plaintiffs, Barbara Brookman called an ambulance on behalf of a 92 year-old woman in her home. At some point after the ambulance was called, police officers from Hillside PD arrived at the home and arrested Plaintiffs. Barbara was charged and ultimately convicted of elder neglect. Howard was arrested for attempting to interfere with Barbara's arrest; he entered a pre-trial intervention program. Charges against Jeffrey for elder neglect were filed but later dismissed.

         On May 8, 2009, Plaintiffs filed a civil rights Complaint alleging that they were arrested without probable cause against several law enforcement and governmental defendants including the Township of Hillside, its Police Department, several of its officers[1] (“Hillside Defendants”) and the Union County Prosecutor's Office (“Prosecutor's Office”)[2] asserting violations of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985 and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 et seq. On December 4, 2009, the Court stayed the case upon a finding that resolution of Barbara and Howard Brookman's claims first required a disposition of the then-pending criminal charges against them. (CM/ECF No. 27.) Ms. Brookman was convicted of elder abuse and subsequently appealed her conviction. The Court entered an Order on June 6, 2012, continuing the stay during the appeal of the criminal conviction.

         On August 14, 2017, after the Hillside Defendants notified the Court that Mrs. Brookman's appeal had been dismissed three years earlier in July 2014, the Court dismissed the action with prejudice. (CM/ECF No. 38.) Plaintiffs filed an application for reconsideration on August 30, 2017. (CM/ECF No. 39.) On October 24, 2017, the Court denied the reconsideration motion with respect to Mrs. Brookman's claims for malicious prosecution and false arrest and granted the motion with respect to other claims, which were reinstated and the case was no longer stayed.[3] (CM/ECF No. 46.)

         On February 2, 2018, the parties appeared for a discovery conference following which the Court entered an Order pursuant to which discovery was set to close July 2, 2018, and any motions to amend pleadings were to be filed by March 9, 2018. (CM/ECF No. 57.) On March 10, 2018, Plaintiffs moved to amend their Complaint.

         B. Motion to Amend the Complaint

         Plaintiffs' motion to amend their Complaint has two aspects to it. First, they seek to name two Hillside Police Officers, Lashonda Burgess and Quiana Brown, as two of the officers named in the original 2009 Complaint as John and Jane Does 1-10. These officers were allegedly involved in the arrest in 2007, eleven years before Plaintiffs moved to amend.

         The second aspect of the proposed amendment attempts to name two New Jersey Superior Court judges, a judge's clerk, the prosecutor in Mrs. Brookman's criminal trial, and one of Mrs. Brookman's former lawyers, for alleged wrongs committed against her during her criminal trial, which appears to have occurred in 2012 or before. Specifically, she seeks to add Hon. Stuart Peim, J.S.C., his court clerk, Gail Ferranti, Hon. John F. Malone, J.S.C. (Ret.), Richard Lehrich, Mrs. Brookman's former attorney, and Robert Rosenthal, Assistant Union County Prosecutor.[4]

         DISCUSSION

         A. Legal Standard for Amendment

         Motions to amend pleadings are governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a).[5] Once a responsive pleading has been filed, “a party may amend its pleadings only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). Leave to amend is generally granted unless there is: (1) undue delay or prejudice; (2) bad faith; (3) dilatory motive; (4) failure to cure deficiencies through previous amendment; or (5) futility. Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). The ultimate decision to grant or deny leave ...


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