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Carmichael v. Thomson

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

January 2, 2020

ANTHONY CARMICHAEL, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN SCOTT THOMSON, et al., Defendants.

          Cheryl L. Cooper, Esq. LAW OFFICES OF CHERYL L. COOPER Attorney for Plaintiff.

          Christine O'Hearn, Esq. BROWN & CONNERY, LLP Attorney for County Defendants.

          Daniel Edward Rybeck, Esq., John C. Eastlack, Jr., Esq., Lilia Londar, Esq., WEIR & PARTNERS Attorneys for City Defendants.

          OPINION

          HONORABLE NOEL L. HILLMAN JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Anthony Carmichael (hereinafter, “Plaintiff”) brought this employment action against Defendants City of Camden, County of Camden, and John Scott Thomson, Orlando Cuevas, Michael Lynch, Louis Vega, Joseph Wysocki, and J.L. Williams, in their official capacities as employees of the City of Camden, the County of Camden, or both (collectively, “Defendants”). Plaintiff, formerly a Lieutenant in the Camden City Police Department and now a Captain in the Camden County Police Department, generally alleges that Defendants engaged in retaliation against him based on protected activity in violation of the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“NJLAD”), the New Jersey State Constitution, the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff also alleges race discrimination in violation of NJLAD and § 1983.

         This Opinion addresses only Plaintiff's remaining claims against Defendants County of Camden, County Police Chief Thomson, Deputy Chief Cuevas, Deputy Chief Lynch, and Louis Vega, in their capacity as employees of the County of Camden and County of Camden Police Department (collectively, “County Defendants”) for allegedly discriminating against Plaintiff by failing to promote him to Captain during or soon after the formation of the Camden County Police Department in May 2013 and does not address any of Plaintiff's claims against City Defendants.[1]

         This matter comes before the Court on County Defendants' motion for summary judgment on Counts Eleven and Twelve of the First Amended Complaint.[2] (Motion for Summary Judgment (hereinafter “County Defs.' Mot.”) [Docket Item 240].)

         The principal issue remaining to be decided is, discovery having been concluded, whether there are genuine issues of material fact from which, giving all reasonable inferences to Plaintiff, a jury could reasonably find that County Defendants failed to promote Plaintiff to the rank of Captain in the Camden County Police Department due to race discrimination in violation of his First Amendment rights. For the reasons discussed below, the motion for summary judgment will be granted.

         II. BACKGROUND[3]

         The pending motion was filed by County Defendants and as noted previously does not address any of Plaintiff's allegations against City Defendants. (County Defendants' Brief in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment (hereinafter “County Br.”) [Docket Item 240-2], 1 n.1.) Accordingly, the Court recounts only those portions of the factual the procedural history relevant to Plaintiff's failure-to-promote claims against County Defendants.

         A. Factual Background

         The late Honorable Jerome B. Simandle thoroughly detailed the factual background of this case in his Opinion addressing County Defendants' prior motion for summary judgment, (see Opinion [Docket Item 202], Sept. 27, 2018, 17-22), and the Court need not repeat that background here.

         B. Procedural History

         Judge Simandle's Opinion addressing County Defendants' prior motion for summary judgment also thoroughly addressed the procedural history of this case, (see Opinion [Docket Item 202], Sept. 27, 2018, 22-25), and the Court need not recite that history, known to the parties, here. Subsequent to that Opinion, Judge Simandle granted County Defendants leave to file the present motion. (See Opinion [Docket Item 236], Apr. 5, 2019; Order [Docket Item 237], Apr. 5, 2019.)

         IV. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         At summary judgment, the moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); accord Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once a properly supported motion for summary judgment is made, the burden shifts to the non-moving party, who must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the court is required to examine the evidence in light most favorable to the non-moving party, and resolve all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007); Halsey v. Pfeiffer, 750 F.3d 273, 287 (3d Cir. 2014).

         A factual dispute is material when it “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, ” and genuine when “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. The non-moving party “need not match, item for item, each piece of evidence proffered by the movant, ” but must simply present more than a “mere scintilla” of evidence on which a jury could reasonably ...


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