Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Summerville v. Gregory

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

October 31, 2019

STANLEY SUMMERVILLE, FOMBAH SIRLEAF, Plaintiffs,
v.
DETECTIVE SERGEANT M. GREGORY, et at, Defendants.

          OPINION & ORDER

          HON. KEVIN MCNULTY, U.S.D.J.

         This constitutional tort action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 arises from an allegedly unconstitutional detention of the plaintiffs, Stanley Summerville and Fombah Sirleaf, by several New Jersey State Troopers. By Order and Opinion (DE 129) filed on August 29, 2019, I granted in part and denied in part the motion for summary judgment on behalf of Officers Gregory and Ciano, and also granted in part and denied in part the cross-motion for summary judgment filed by the plaintiffs. What remains is a Fourth Amendment § 1983 claim, against defendant Gregory only, based on the alleged illegality of the initial Terry stop and its unreasonable prolongation.

         In essence, I found that Officer Gregory's initial reasonable-suspicion basis for the Terry stop of the plaintiffs presented issues of fact, precluding summary judgment for either side on that issue. In doing so, I noted some significant factual questions and inconsistencies as to what Gregory had observed at the time he ordered the detention. I therefore proceeded to a second issue. Irrespective of the permissibility of the original stop, I found that the subsequent detention of the plaintiffs for 90 minutes exceeded constitutional bounds. Defendant Gregory now moves for reconsideration on that second issue. (DE 132) He clarifies in his reply that he means to press these arguments primarily in the context of qualified immunity. (DE 136).

         Local Rule 7.1(i) governs motions for reconsideration. Reconsideration is granted sparingly, generally only in one of three situations: (1) when there has been an intervening change in the law; (2) when new evidence has become available; or (3) when necessary to correct a clear error of law or to prevent manifest injustice. See North River Ins. Co. v. CIGNA Reinsurance Co., 52 F.3d 1194, 1218 (3d Cir. 1995); Carmxchael v. Everson, 2004 WL 1587894 (D.N.J. May 21, 2004). "A motion for reconsideration is improper when it is used 'to ask the Court to rethink what it had already thought through-rightly or wrongly. Oritani Sav. & LoanAss'n v. Fidelity & Deposit Co., 744 F.Supp. 1311, 1314 (D.N.J. 1990) (quoting Above the Belt v. Mel Bohannan Roofing, Inc., 99 F.R.D. 99, 101 (E.D. Va. 1983)). Evidence or arguments that were available at the time of the original decision will not support a motion for reconsideration. Damiano v. Sony Music Entm't, Inc., 975 F.Supp. 623, 636 (D.N.J. 1997); see also North River Ins. Co., 52 F.3d at 1218; Bapu Corp. v. Choice Hotels Int'l, Inc., 2010 WL 5418972, at *4 (D.N.J. Dec. 23, 2010) (citing P. Schoenfeld Asset Mgmt. LLC v. Cendant Corp., 161 F.Supp.2d 349, 352 (D.N.J. 2001)).

         Aware of the high threshold bar to such relief, defendant Gregory contends that he did not have a fair opportunity to address the issue of die unconstitutional prolongation of the detention, because it was not raised in the plaintiffs' cross-motion for summary judgment. (DE 132-1) In particular, says Gregory, defense counsel did not have a chance to address and distinguish ttie authorities cited in the Court's Opinion, especially United States v. Place, 462 U.S. 696, 709 (1983).

         The State's argument bypasses some important procedural history. As background, recall that the State's theory was that this 90-minute detention was a Terry stop, which by definition is a brief investigative detention based on reasonable suspicion, falling short of the probable cause that would support a full seizure. See Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968).

         Point I of the State's brief, submitted in support of defendants' motion for summary judgment, runs thus:

POINT I
THE INDIVIDUAL STATE POLICE OFFICER DEFENDANTS ARE ENTITLED TO SUMMARY JUDGEMENT ON THE FIRST AND FOURTH CAUSES OF ACTION OF PLAINTIFFS' THIRD AMENDED COMPLAINT BECAUSE THE SEIZURE OF PLAINTIFFS WAS REASONABLE UNDER THE FOURTH AMENDMENT AND NOT MOTIVATED BY RACE.............................................................................................. 11
A. THE INITIAL SEIZURE OF PLAINTIFFS WAS JUSTIFIED AS BASED UPON REASONABLE SUSPICION........................................... 13
B. THE VALID INVESTIGATIVE DETENTION OF PLAINTIFFS DID NOT RUN AFOUL OF THE FOURTH AMENDEMENT IN SCOPE OR DURATION SO AS TO BECOME A DE FACTO ARREST REQUIRING PROBABLE CAUSE.............................................................. 17

(Def. Moving Brief on summary judgment ("State Brf."), at p. 1 (table of contents), DE 114-1 at 2). The structure of the State's own argument, then, was that (A) the initial seizure was valid, and (B) it did not thereafter exceed the bounds of the Fourth Amendment in scope or duration. The responsibility-shifting contention that issue (B) was absent from plaintiffs cross-motion implies the State could not have addressed that issue, but in fact the State was aware of and did address that issue.

         Point LB occupied some seven pages of the State's opening brief. The point's first sentence reads as follows: "An otherwise valid investigative detention can nevertheless violate the Fourth Amendment when the circumstances surrounding the seizure convert the detention into a de facto arrest. See U.S. v. Sharpe, 470 U.S. 675, 685-686 (1985)." (State Brf. 17, DE 114-1 at 25) In the paragraph almost immediately following, the State explained what it meant:

Duration alone will not convert a valid Terry stop into an unreasonable arrest. See Sharpe, 470 U.S. at 685-686. "In assessing whether a detention is too long in duration to be justified as an investigative stop, [courts] consider it appropriate to examine whether the police diligently pursued a means of investigation that was likely to confirm or dispel their suspicion quickly, during which time it was necessary to detain the defendant." United States v. Sharpe,470 U.S. 675, 686 (1985). Courts "should take care to consider whether the police are acting in a swiftly developing situation, and in such cases the court should not indulge in unrealistic second-guessing." Id. Indeed, ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.