United States District Court, D. New Jersey
OPINION & ORDER
KEVIN MCNULTY, U.S.D.J.
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
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).
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)).
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).
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).
of the State's brief, submitted in support of
defendants' motion for summary judgment, runs thus:
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
A. THE INITIAL SEIZURE OF PLAINTIFFS WAS JUSTIFIED AS BASED
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
(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.
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, ...