United States District Court, D. New Jersey
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
G. SHERIDAN, U.S.D.J.
matter comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion for
Summary Judgment pursuant Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
56(c). (ECF No. 62). Plaintiff Arnold Lane asserts federal
civil rights claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and
Bivens. For the reasons set forth below,
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted
in part and denied in part.
13, 2014, Lane visited the Sandy Hook area of the Gateway
National Recreation Area. (PL's Statement of Facts in
Opp., ECF No. 70-1, at ¶ 1). After spending the day at
the beach, Lane walked from the beach to his car that was
located in the parking lot to make a phone call. (Dep. Of PI.
Arnold Lane, ECF No. 62-14, at 64). Lane carried with him
everything he had brought to the beach that day, including a
beach chair, back pack, beach umbrella, and an insulated bag
for keeping food cold. (ECF No. 62-14, at 61-64). Lane walked
to his car, placed the items he was carrying inside the
trunk, and opened the door to sit inside his car. (ECF No.
62-14, at 78).
time, Defendant Layla Schade, a National Park Service Ranger,
was seated in her law enforcement vehicle, facing the
pedestrian footpath from which Lane had emerged. (Tr. Of
Trial, Feb. 18, 2015, ECF No. 62-5, at 7-8). Schade noticed
Lane walk to his car, and saw that he was carrying a
"grocery sack that was full of what appeared to be
several cans." (Id.) Schade explained that the
cans "appeared to be beer cans." (Id. at
8.) Schade also explained that she noticed Lane specifically
because he was "staring" at her vehicle.
(Id.) Schade explained, "He was staring at our
vehicle as he walked from the pedestrian foot path towards
the . . . parking lot ... as he was walking, simply staring
directly at the [law enforcement] vehicle, looking towards
his vehicle, then staring back at our vehicle."
(Id.) Schade found this odd because "of all the
hundreds of people that I've seen walk by us, they
generally don't focus their attention as intently on us
as that." (Id.) Additionally, Adam Huber, a
United States Park Ranger on patrol with Schade that evening,
observed Lane looking that them. (Id. at 69). Huber
explained, "[H]e eyeballed us. He turned and looked,
stared at us for quite a while, and ... he looked away. He
did that two more times, which I thought was
on her observation of the grocery bag filled with cans and
the way that Lane had "stared" at her law
enforcement vehicle, Schade approached Lane and asked whether
he had been drinking. (ECF No. 62-14, at 79). Lane responded,
"yeah, when I first got on the beach I think I had like
one beer or something like that." (Id. at 80).
Schade next asked if she could perform a field sobriety test,
and Lane responded, "sure ... why not."
(Id.) Schade administered three field-sobriety
tests: the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the walk-and-turn
test, and the one-leg-stand test. (ECF No. 62-5, at 15-16).
On the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, Schade determined that
Lane failed five out of six standard cues of impairment.
Specifically, Schade found Lane had a lack of smooth pursuit
in his left eye, a lack of smooth pursuit in his right eye,
distinct and sustained nystagmus in his left eye; distinct
and sustained nystagmus in his right eye; and an onset of
nystagmus prior to 40 degrees in his left eye. (Incident
Report, ECF No. 62-6, at 2). Schade next determined that Lane
passed the walk-and-turn test and the one leg- stand test.
(Id.) Schade also administered a portable breath
test, however, Defendants allege that Lane was "unable
or unwilling" to provide an adequate breath sample. (ECF
No. 62-5, at 20-21). In contrast, Lane maintains that the
breathalyzer test was not working properly, or that Schade
administered it wrong and it was thus inconclusive. (ECF No.
70-1, at ¶12).
then placed Lane under arrest on suspicion of public
intoxication based on the following: Lane's failure of
the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the fact that he had
admitted drinking earlier that day, because "smelled
strongly of alcohol," and that he had a
"shuffling" gait while walking to his vehicle. (ECF
No. 62-6, at 3). Plaintiff supports that at the time of his
arrest, there was no evidence that he was publicly
intoxicated. (ECF No. 70-1, at ¶ 11).
placing Lane under arrest, Schade and Hubert searched
Lane's vehicle and found a plastic bag containing nine
empty cans of beer in the vehicle's trunk, and a
prescription pill bottle with a label that indicated it
contained hydrocodone/acetaminophen (generic Vicodin) with a
"fill date" of June 5, 2012. (ECF No. 62-6, at 3;
Photo Log, ECF No. 62-9; Photo Log, ECF No. 62-8). When
Schade arrested Lane, she performed a search of his person
incident to arrest. (See Schade's Resps. to
Interrogs., ECF No. 62-7, at 6). Schade explained that during
the search, she felt a "metal object" in his
pocket, and after determining that Lane was wearing a bathing
suit underneath his pants, she asked Lane to remove his pants
to obtain the metal object. (Id. at 5-6). Lane
contends that this search was a strip search in a public
parking lot; however, Schade contends that Lane wore his
bathing suit during this search. (Id.)
searching Lane, Schade handcuffed him and placed him in the
back of the law enforcement vehicle that she and Hubert had
been driving. (ECF No. 62-6, at 3). Lane remained handcuffed
during the approximately five minute drive to the Sandy Hook
holding facility. (ECF No. 62-14, at 128). During the drive,
Lane complained that his handcuffs were too tight and causing
him pain. (Id.) The handcuffs were removed once he
was placed in a holding cell, after arriving at the facility.
(ECF No. 62-6, at 3).
being placed in the holding cell, Lane began to complain of
wrist pain, and the rangers called a Sandy Hook emergency
medical technician to treat Lane. (EMT Report; ECF No.
62-11). At that time, the EMT found there was no swelling in
Lane's wrists, no visible marks, and no bleeding.
(Id.) The EMT determined that Lane had good movement
in both hands; "good cap refill"; "vitals
within normal limits"; "no other complaints";
"no other findings upon exam"; and "no need
for transport to hospital;" he was then given an ice
pack. (Id.) According to Lane, he wore a splint on
his right wrist for "a few weeks" after this
incident. (ECF No. 62-14, at 193). In his statement of
undisputed facts, Lane contends that when X-rays of his wrist
were taken, an injury was shown; however, in his deposition
he stated that he not suffer any injury apart from the
alleged wrist pain. (ECF No. 70-1, at ¶ 29; ECF No.
62-14 at 129).
was held in the holding cell until approximately 1:30 a.m. or
2 a.m., and after he provided a breath sample that indicated
it was safe for him to operate a car, he was released.
(See ECF No. 62-6, at 6). Lane was charged with
public intoxication, unlawful possession of prescription
drugs, and interference with agency functions. (Id.)
Lane alleges that when he was released, he was ordered not to
return to Sandy Hook pursuant to a policy entitled
"Standard Operation Procedures and Guidelines for
Disposition of Offenders/Enforcement Action at the Sandy Hook
Unit of Gateway." (See Amended Complaint, ECF
No. 38, at ¶¶ 49-55). These guidelines explain that
when a visitor is arrested at Sandy Hook and required to
appear in court, the visitor "may be issued a lawful
order to leave the Park and not to return until the case has
been resolved either by payment of the collateral forfeiture
or by judicial or U.S. Attorney decision." (See
Standard Operating Procedures, ECF No. 62-13, at 2).
was held on February 18, 2015. At the conclusion of
testimony, the judge found that "the Government failed
to sustain its burden of proof in each of these
charges," and acquitted Lane. (ECF No. 62-5, at 93).
Despite Lane's acquittal, the judge found that his arrest
was appropriate, explaining:
[Lane] got himself arrested through his actions and his
responses to their questions. Had he acted any differently,
we wouldn't be here going through the trial of this case.
I think that based upon the things that he did and responses
that he gave, these rangers acted properly in every single
thing that they did.
(Id. at 92).
on these facts, Lane brought thirteen causes of action
against Defendants: (1) deprivation of federal civil rights;
(2) unlawful seizure of person; (3) excessive force; (4)
false arrest; (5) unlawful search and seizure of property;
(6) cruel and unusual punishment; (7) malicious abuse of
process; (8) conspiracy to violate civil rights; (9)
violation of the equal protection clause; (10) a claim for
"declaratory relief seeking "issuance of a
temporary and permanent injunction against Defendants and
their unconstitutional policies and procedures;" (11)
"joint and several liability"; (12) a claim
under New Jersey law for "violation of New Jersey Civil
Rights;" and (13) a claim under New Jersey law for
"joint and several liability." (See ECF
No. 38, at ¶¶ 64-121).
judgment is appropriate under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c) when the
moving party demonstrates that there is no genuine issue of
material fact and the evidence establishes the moving
party's entitlement to judgment as a matter of law.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23
(1986). A factual dispute is genuine if a reasonable jury
could return a verdict for the non-movant, and it is material
if, under the substantive law, it would affect the outcome of
the suit. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 248 (1986). In considering a motion for summary
judgment, a district court may not make credibility
determinations or engage in any weighing of the evidence;
instead, the non-moving party's evidence "is to be
believed and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in
his favor." Marino v. Indus. Crating Co., 358
F.3d 241, 247 (3d Cir. 2004) (quoting Anderson, 477
U.S. at 255).
the moving party has satisfied its initial burden, the party
opposing the motion must establish that a genuine issue as to
a material fact exists. Jersey Cent. Power & Light
Co. v. Lacey Twp., 772 F.2d 1103, 1109 (3d Cir. 1985).
The party opposing the motion for summary judgment cannot
rest on mere allegations and instead must present actual
evidence that creates a genuine issue as to a material fact
for trial. See Anderson, 411 U.S. at 248; Siegel
Transfer, Inc. v. Carrier Express, Inc., 54 F.3d 1125,
1130-31 (3d Cir. 1995). "[U]nsupported allegations ...
and pleadings are insufficient to repel summary
judgment." Schoch v. First Fidelity Bancorp.,
912 F.2d 654, 657 (3d Cir. 1990); see also Fed. R.
Civ. P. 56(e) (requiring nonmoving party to "set forth
specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for
trial"). Moreover, only disputes over facts that might
affect the outcome of the lawsuit under governing law will
preclude the entry of summary judgment. Anderson,
477 U.S. at 247-48. If a court determines, after drawing all
inferences in favor of the non-moving party, and making all
credibility determinations in his favor "that no
reasonable jury could find for him, summary judgment is
appropriate." Alevras v. Tacopina, 226 Fed.
App'x. 222, 227 (3d Cir. 2007).
Unlawful Search and Seizure and False Arrest (Claims I,
II, IV and V)
asserts a claim of unlawful search and seizure and false
arrest against Defendants, arguing that probable cause for
the arrest and subsequent searches did not exist. In
response, Defendants argue that probable cause existed for
the arrest and subsequent search of Lane and his vehicle, and
even if probable cause did not exist, they are entitled to
qualified immunity for their conduct.
police may arrest an individual based upon probable cause.
See O'Connor v. City of Phila., 233 Fed.Appx.
161, 164 (3d Cir. 2007). An individual can bring a claim for
false arrest when probable cause to form the basis of an
arrest is absent. Id. To sustain a claim for false
arrest, a plaintiff must establish: "(1) that there was
an arrest; and (2) that the arrest was made without probable
cause." James v. City of Wilkes-Barre, 700 F.3d
675, 680 (3d Cir. 2012). "[P]robable cause to arrest
exists when the facts and circumstances within the arresting
officer's knowledge are sufficient in themselves to
warrant a reasonable person to believe that an offense has
been or is being committed by the person to be
arrested." Orsatti v. N.J. State Police, 71
F.3d 480, 482-83 (3d Cir. 1995). In the context of a false
arrest claim, the inquiry is "not whether the person
arrested in fact committed the offense, but whether the
arresting officers had probable cause to believe the person
arrested had committed the offense." Dowling v. City
of Phila., 855 F.2d 136, 141 (3d Cir. 1988).
the Defendants qualified immunity argument, the Supreme Court
recently reaffirmed the principles of qualified immunity in
the context of warrantless arrests in District of
Columbia v. Wesby,138 S.Ct. 577 (2018). There, the
Court explained that law enforcement officers are entitled to
qualified immunity unless: "(1) they violated a federal
statutory or constitutional right, and (2) the unlawfulness
of their conduct was 'clearly established at the
time.'" Wesby, 138 S.Ct. at 589. The Court
explained that "[c]early established means that, at the
time of the officer's conduct, the law was
'sufficiently clear' that every reasonable official
would understand that what he is doing is unlawful."
Id. (citations omitted). This demanding standard
protects "all but the plainly incompetent or those who
knowingly violate the law." Id. However,