HARRIS v. ZYSKOWSKI
OPINION. Signed by Judge Noel L. Hillman on 3/28/2016. (tf, n.m.)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
NEW JERSEY STATE TROOPER
VICTOR L. HARRIS,
Civ. No. 12-7191 (NLH)
Victor L. Harris
629 Greenwood Ave.
Trenton, NJ 08609
Plaintiff, pro se
State of New Jersey Department of Law & Public Safety
25 Market St.
P.O. Box 112
Trenton, NJ 08625
Counsel for Defendant
HILLMAN, District Judge
This matter comes before the Court by way of a motion (ECF
No. 49) by Defendant seeking summary judgment pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56.
The Court has considered
the parties’ submissions and decides this matter pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78.
For the reasons that follow, Defendant’s motion for summary
judgment will be GRANTED.
FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On or about November 15, 2012, Plaintiff filed a civil
rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 asserting claims
relating to his arrest on December 9, 2011. (ECF No. 1).
factual allegations of the Complaint are summarized in this
Court’s December 18, 2013 Order.
In relevant part,
Plaintiff alleges that on December 9, 2011, he was
confined in a halfway house in anticipation of his
release from service of a criminal sentence. He
signed out of the halfway house to go to a job
interview. On the way back to the halfway house, he
pulled his car over on the shoulder of Interstate 295
to make a phone call. Defendant New Jersey State
Trooper J. B. Zyskowski pulled behind Plaintiff’s car
and asked him if he had a problem, to which Plaintiff
responded that he did not. Trooper Zyskowski then
advised Plaintiff that he was not permitted to stop on
the shoulder of the Interstate highway and asked
Plaintiff for his driver’s license and vehicle
registration; Plaintiff complied with this request.
Plaintiff states that Trooper Zyskowski went back to
his own vehicle and then returned, asking Plaintiff to
step out of his car and advising him of an outstanding
2003 warrant for Plaintiff’s arrest on harassment
charges. Plaintiff replied that those charges had
been dismissed, as evidenced by the fact that he had
been moved from prison to a halfway house in
anticipation of release. Nevertheless, Plaintiff
contends that Trooper Zyskowski responded that he was
taking Plaintiff into the state police station because
the warrant was on the Trooper’s computer.
Plaintiff asserts that, at the station, he asked
Trooper Zyskowski to check the NCIC database, to show
there was no pending warrant, and asked him to call
the halfway house, also, to verify that no warrants
were pending. According to Plaintiff, Trooper
Zyskowski did run an NCIC 1 check, which showed no
pending warrants, but he refused to call the halfway
house, and he also refused to permit Plaintiff to
place a call. Instead, he told Plaintiff he would be
sent to the Burlington County Jail and he could make a
telephone call there.
Plaintiff does not allege that Trooper Zyskowski had
any further involvement in the events that transpired
from there, including the alleged refusal of
Burlington County Jail staff to permit Plaintiff to
make a telephone call, a mix-up about Plaintiff’s name
that permitted an inmate with a similar name to be
released on bail instead of Plaintiff, and Plaintiff’s
confinement for approximately eight months before the
charges were dropped.
(Order 2-4, December 18, 2013, ECF No. 12) (footnote omitted).
Plaintiff asserted claims against Trooper Zyskowski for
false arrest, malicious prosecution, and abuse of process.
On May 23, 2013, Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss (ECF
No. 7), which the Court granted in part and denied in part on
December 18, 2013 (ECF No. 12).
Specifically, only the damages
The Court construes Plaintiff’s reference to the “NCIC
database” as a reference to the database maintained by the
National Crime Information Center.
The National Crime Information Center is a
computerized database of criminal justice information
available to law enforcement agencies nationwide. It
was designed to help law enforcement locate fugitives
and stolen property. As such, the national index
includes records on wanted persons and information on
stolen property, including vehicles. Today it also
contains information on missing persons, unidentified
persons, people believed to pose a threat to the
President, foreign fugitives, and related areas.
State v. Sloane, 193 N.J. 423, 433 (2008) (citations omitted).
claim for false arrest was permitted to proceed against
Defendant, in his individual capacity; and only the claim for
declaratory relief was permitted to proceed against Defendant in
both his official and individual capacities.
This Court also
sua sponte dismissed Plaintiff’s claims for malicious
prosecution and abuse of process for failure to state a claim.
On December 31, 2013, Defendant filed an Answer to the
Complaint and the case progressed.
On December 4, 2014, the
case was administratively terminated to afford attorney Gregg L.
Zeff time to evaluate the case and decide whether he would enter
an appearance on behalf of Plaintiff, who had been proceeding
pro se. (ECF No. 38).
Ultimately, attorney Gregg Zeff decided
to decline representation of Plaintiff.
Accordingly, on January
28, 2015, the Court reopened the case and directed that it
should resume its regular course. (ECF No. 42).
moves for Summary Judgment and asserts that he is entitled to
qualified immunity as a matter of law. (ECF No. 49).
Plaintiff did not file a response.
Therefore, the motion
STANDARDS OF REVIEW
A. Summary Judgment
Summary judgment is appropriate where the Court is
satisfied that “‘the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to
any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a
judgment as a matter of law.’” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986) (citing FED.
R. CIV. P. 56).
An issue is “genuine” if it is supported by evidence such
that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in the nonmoving
party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).
A fact is
“material” if, under the governing substantive law, a dispute
about the fact might affect the outcome of the suit. Id.
considering a motion for summary judgment, a district court may
not make credibility determinations or engage in any weighing of
the evidence; instead, the nonmoving 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) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255).
Initially, the moving party bears the burden of
demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323 (“[A] party seeking summary judgment
always bears the initial responsibility of informing the
district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying
those portions of ‘the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any,’ which it believes demonstrate the absence
of a genuine issue of material fact.” (citation omitted); see
also Singletary v. Pa. Dept. of Corr., 266 F.3d 186, 192 n. 2
(3d Cir. 2001) (“Although the initial burden is on the summary
judgment movant to show the absence of a genuine issue of
material fact, ‘the burden on the moving party may be discharged
by “showing” — that is, pointing out to the district court-that
there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's
case’ when the nonmoving party bears the ultimate burden of
proof.”) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325).
Once the moving party has met this burden, the non-moving
party must identify, by affidavits or otherwise, specific facts
showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Celotex, 477
U.S. at 324.
A “party opposing summary judgment may not rest
upon the mere allegations or denials of the ... pleading[s.]”
Saldana v. Kmart Corp., 260 F.3d 228, 232 (3d Cir. 2001)
(internal quotations omitted).
For “the non-moving party[ ] to
prevail, [that party] must ‘make a showing sufficient to
establish the existence of [every] element essential to that
party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of
proof at trial.’” Cooper v. Sniezek, 418 F. App'x 56, 58 (3d
Cir. 2011) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322).
withstand a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the
nonmoving party must identify specific facts and affirmative
evidence that contradict those offered by the moving party.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256–57.
Where, as here, the motion is unopposed, the Court “will
accept as true all material facts set forth by the moving party
with appropriate record support.” Anchorage Associates v. Virgin
Islands Bd. of Tax Review, 922 F.2d 168, 175 (3d Cir. 1990)
(quoting Jaroma v. Massey, 873 F.2d 17, 21 (1st Cir. 1989)); see
also L.Civ.R. 56.1(a) (“any material fact not disputed shall be
deemed undisputed for purposes of the summary judgment motion”).
However, an unopposed motion may be granted only if
“appropriate,” and only if the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e); see Anchorage
Assocs., 922 F.2d at 175; see also Murdock v. Borough of
Edgewater, No. 08-2268, 2011 WL 5320995, at *7 (D.N.J. Nov. 2,
Finally, “[w]here the record taken as a whole could not
lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party,”
no genuine issue for trial exists and summary judgment should be
granted. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475
U.S. 574, 587, 106 S. Ct. 1348, 1356, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538 (1986).
B. 42 U.S.C. § 1983
A plaintiff may have a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 for certain violations of his constitutional rights.
Section 1983 provides, in pertinent part:
Every person who, under color of any statute,
ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State
... subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen
of the United States or other person within the
jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights,
privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution
and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an
action at law, suit in equity, or other proper
proceeding for redress[.]”
42 U.S.C. § 1983.
“To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must
allege a person acting under color of state law engaged in
conduct that violated a right protected by the Constitution or
laws of the United States.” Morrow v. Balaski, 719 F.3d 160,
165–66 (3d Cir. 2013) (citing Nicini v. Morra, 212 F.3d 798, 806
(3d Cir. 2000)).
The Court's “‘first step in evaluating a
section 1983 claim is to ‘identify the exact contours of the
underlying right said to have been violated’ and to [then]
determine ‘whether the plaintiff has alleged a deprivation of a
constitutional right at all.’” Morrow, 719 F.3d at 166 (quoting
Nicini, 212 F.3d at 806.); see also West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42,
As set forth above, the only remaining claim for damages is
the false arrest claim against Defendant in his individual
With respect to this claim, Defendant asserts that he
is entitled to qualified immunity as a matter of law.
A. False Arrest
It is well established in the Third Circuit that an arrest
without probable cause is a Fourth Amendment violation
actionable under § 1983. See Berg v. County of Allegheny, 219
F.3d 261, 268-69 (3d Cir. 2000) (collecting cases), cert.
denied, 531 U.S. 1072 and 531 U.S. 1145 (2001); see also,
Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 274 (1994) (a section 1983
claim for false arrest may be based upon an individual’s Fourth
Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizures).
To state a Fourth Amendment claim for false arrest, a
plaintiff must allege two elements: “(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) (citing Groman v. Twp. of Manalapan, 47 F.3d 628, 634
(3d Cir. 1995) and Dowling v. City of Philadelphia, 855 F.2d
136, 141 (3d Cir. 1988)).
B. Qualified Immunity
“[G]overnment officials performing discretionary functions
generally are shielded from liability for civil damages insofar
as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory
or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have
known.” Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818, 102 S. Ct.
2727, 2738, 73 L. Ed. 2d 396 (1982).
“When properly applied,
[qualified immunity] protects ‘all but the plainly incompetent
or those who knowingly violate the law.’” Ashcroft v. al-Kidd,
563 U.S. 731, 131 S.Ct. 2074, 2085, 179 L.Ed.2d 1149 (2011)
(quoting Malley v. Briggs, 475 U.S. 335, 341, 106 S.Ct. 1092, 89
L.Ed.2d 271 (1986)) (cited in Spady v. Bethlehem Area Sch.
Dist., 800 F.3d 633, 637 (3d Cir. 2015)).
In determining qualified immunity, the first question is
whether “the facts alleged, viewed in the light most favorable
to the party asserting the injury, show that the officer's
conduct violated a constitutional right[.]” Curley v. Klem, 298
F.3d 271, 277 (3d Cir. 2002) (citing Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S.
194, 201, 121 S.Ct. 2156, 150 L.Ed.2d 272 (2001)).
court must decide whether the right at issue was “clearly
established” at the time of defendant's alleged misconduct. See
Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 232, 129 S. Ct. 808, 816, 172
L. Ed. 2d 565 (2009).
“To be clearly established, a right must be sufficiently
clear that every reasonable official would have understood that
what he is doing violates that right.” Taylor v. Barkes, 135 S.
Ct. 2042, 2044, 192 L. Ed. 2d 78 (2015) (quoting Reichle v.
Howards, 132 S. Ct. 2088, 2093, 182 L. Ed. 2d 985 (2012)).
determining whether a right has been clearly established, the
court must define the right allegedly violated at the
appropriate level of specificity.” Werkheiser v. Pocono Twp.,
780 F.3d 172, 176 (3d Cir.) cert. denied sub nom. Werkheiser v.
Pocono Twp., Penn., 136 S. Ct. 404 (2015) (quoting Sharp v.
Johnson, 669 F.3d 144, 159 (3d Cir. 2012)).
“‘We do not require
a case directly on point’ before concluding that the law is
clearly established, ‘but existing precedent must have placed
the statutory or constitutional question beyond debate.’”
Stanton v. Sims, 134 S. Ct. 3, 5, 187 L. Ed. 2d 341 (2013)
(quoting al-Kidd, 131 S. Ct. at 2083).
“If officers of
reasonable competence could disagree on th[e] issue, immunity
should be recognized.” Malley v. Briggs, 475 U.S. at 341.
Courts may begin their consideration with either prong. See
Spady, 800 F.3d at 637 (citing Pearson, 555 U.S. at 236).
In this case, there is no dispute that Defendant arrested
Plaintiff based on the Mount Holly warrants. 2
according to Plaintiff’s version of the facts, the case which
had produced the Mount Holly warrants had been dismissed and
Plaintiff did not have any outstanding warrants at the time of
his arrest. (Compl. 2, ECF No. 1).
In viewing the facts in the
light most favorable to Plaintiff under the summary judgment
Plaintiff does not dispute the fact that Defendant relied on
the Mount Holly warrants to arrest him. Although Plaintiff
ultimately alleges that Defendant “knew there was no warrant”
(Compl. 5, ECF No. 1), Plaintiff previously concedes that
Defendant “stated that [he had] a warrant from back in 2003 for
harassment” (Compl. 2, ECF No. 1).
standard and the first prong of the qualified immunity analysis,
see Gilles, 427 F.3d at 205, the Court accepts as true
Plaintiff’s assertion that the warrants were not active at the
time of Plaintiff’s arrest. 3
However, Defendant contends that, at the time of the
arrest, he received verbal confirmation from a fellow officer
that the two warrants were active.
Further, after Defendant
took Plaintiff to the station, Defendant personally confirmed
the existence of the warrants and printed copies, which are
attached to his motion. (Exhibits Part II 28-30, Ex. F,
Warrants, ECF No. 49-3).
Indeed, the attachments show that
these copies were printed on December 9, 2011, the day of
Plaintiff’s arrest, and they do not provide any indication that
the underlying case had been dismissed or that the warrants
themselves had been vacated. (Id.).
The parties do not fully explain why, how, when, or if the
warrants at issue were vacated or otherwise rendered inactive.
Plaintiff simply states, “that case was dismiss[ed].” (Compl. 2,
ECF No. 1). Nevertheless, Defendant does not dispute that the
warrants which served as the basis for Plaintiff’s arrest were
not active at the time of the arrest. Because Defendant has not
met his initial burden of challenging the assertion that the
warrants had been vacated or rendered inactive at the time of
the arrest, Plaintiff — as the non-moving party — is not
required to go beyond the pleadings to show that there is a
genuine issue for trial. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323, 324 (the
moving party bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact).
As set forth above, Plaintiff has not responded to the
summary judgment motion, has not provided any documentation in
support of his Complaint, and has not disputed any of
Defendant’s asserted facts.
Therefore, the Court accepts
Defendant’s contention that, at the time of the arrest, the
computer system indicated that the Mount Holly warrants were
active. See Anchorage Assoc., 922 F.2d at 175 (holding that the
Court “will accept as true all material facts set forth by the
moving party with appropriate record support”); see also
L.Civ.R. 56.1(a) (“any material fact not disputed shall be
deemed undisputed for purposes of the summary judgment motion”).
Accordingly, the facts of this case for purposes of this
summary judgment motion are that Defendant arrested Plaintiff
based on two warrants which, as Plaintiff alleges, had already
been vacated or otherwise rendered inactive but which, as
Defendant alleges, were registered as active in a police
Therefore, the qualified immunity analysis,
infra, turns on whether an officer is unreasonable in his belief
that probable cause to arrest exists where a search of a police
computer database returns an active warrant, but the suspect
verbally alleges that no such warrant exists. See Michtavi v.
Scism, No. 14-4104, 2015 WL 8595201, at *2 (3d Cir. Oct. 19,
2015) (holding that the particular circumstances of the case
warrant a specific definition of the right at issue); see also
Rogers v. Powell, 120 F.3d 446, 452 (3d Cir. 1997) (citing
Orsatti v. New Jersey State Police, 71 F.3d 480, 482 (3d Cir.
1995)) (“The Fourth Amendment prohibits a police officer from
arresting a citizen except upon probable cause.”).
1. False Arrest Claims against Defendant in his
In his motion, Defendant asserts that he is entitled to
qualified immunity as a matter of law.
In determining whether a
defendant is entitled to qualified immunity in the context of a
claim of false arrest, the Court must determine whether, given
the circumstances of the case, “‘a reasonable officer could have
believed that probable cause existed to arrest’ the plaintiff.”
Ciardiello v. Sexton, 390 F. App'x 193, 199 (3d Cir. 2010)
(quoting Hunter v. Bryant, 502 U.S. 224, 228, 112 S.Ct. 534, 116
L.Ed.2d 589 (1991)); Franks v. Temple Univ., 514 F. App'x 117,
121 (3d Cir. 2013); see also Gilles, 427 F.3d at 205 (“Under the
second step of the analysis, a police officer is entitled to
qualified immunity unless it would have been clear to a
reasonable officer there was no probable cause to arrest.”)
Probable cause exists “whenever reasonably trustworthy
information or circumstances within a police officer’s knowledge
are sufficient to warrant a person of reasonable caution to
conclude that an offense has been committed by the person being
arrested.” United States v. Myers, 308 F.3d 251, 255 (3d Cir.
2002) (citing Beck v. State of Ohio, 379 U.S. 89, 91 (1964));
see also DiStefano v. Macy's Retail Holdings, Inc., No. 14-2078,
2015 WL 5049825, at *2 (3d Cir. Aug. 27, 2015).
As this Court noted in its December 18, 2013 Order, courts
“have generally extended immunity to an officer who makes an
arrest based on an objectively reasonable belief that there is a
valid warrant.” Berg v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 219 F.3d 261, 273
(3d Cir. 2000) (citing Rogers v. Powell, 120 F.3d 446, 456 (3d
Cir. 1997) (concluding that a state trooper who was inaccurately
told by another trooper that there was a warrant for the
plaintiff's arrest was immune from suit) and Capone v.
Marinelli, 868 F.2d 102, 105–06 (3d Cir. 1989) (holding that
arresting officers were immune in light of a bulletin correctly
reporting the existence of an arrest warrant “as well as the
nature of the alleged offenses [including child kidnaping] and
the fact that a young child was in possible danger”)).
Previously, this Court declined to apply qualified immunity
because, according to the allegations of the Complaint,
Defendant was in possession of “conflicting information
regarding the existence of the warrant from two different law
enforcement computerized databases[.]” (Order 13, Dec. 18, 2013,
ECF No. 1).
Specifically, this Court found that it could not
make a determination as to the reasonableness of Defendant’s
actions when the allegations of the Complaint stated that
Defendant’s search of the NCIC database did not reveal any
However, as established in Defendant’s Statement of
Material Facts, “[t]he New Jersey State Police check for
warrants in three separate databases: the NCIC, or National
Crime Information Center data base; the ATS, or Automated
Traffic System data base; and the ACS, or Automated Crime System
date base.” (Def.’s SOMF, ¶ 45).
Additionally, “[u]nder normal
circumstances, a Trooper would only expect to see a warrant in
one of these three databases” because “each database tracks
different kinds of warrants.” (Def.’s SOMF, ¶¶ 46 & 47).
Defendant further explains that the ATS and ACS systems
“track warrants issued by local municipal courts” and “are not
generally put into the NCIC system at all.” (Def.’s SOMF, ¶¶ 48,
Accordingly, the fact that a warrant issued by a municipal
court does not appear in the NCIC system would not give a
reasonable officer cause to challenge the validity of that
warrant. (Def.’s SOMF, ¶ 56).
Here, that is precisely the scenario presented.
received verbal confirmation from dispatch of two active
warrants which appeared in the ACS database.
arrested Plaintiff and returned to the station.
Once there, he
personally verified the existence and active status of those
As Plaintiff alleges, Defendant’s search of the NCIC
database did not return any active warrants for Plaintiff.
However, as explained above, the active warrants were issued by
a municipal court; therefore they could reasonably be expected
to appear only in the ACS database.
As a result, their absence
from the NCIC database would not have caused a reasonable
officer to conclude that there was no probable cause to arrest.
Also, this Court previously noted that the Complaint
alleged that Plaintiff suggested to Defendant that he contact
Plaintiff’s halfway house to verify the fact that there were no
outstanding warrants for his arrest.
However, as Defendant
explains, the statements or records of an out-of-state halfway
house could not have verified or refuted the existence of a New
Jersey warrant. (Def.’s SOMF, ¶ 65).
Even more compelling is
the fact that the active warrants required Plaintiff to be
brought before the Mount Holly Municipal Court or to be held on
bail in the amount set by the warrant. (Exhibits Part II 29-30,
Def.’s Ex. F, Warrants, ECF No. 49-3).
statements or records of an out-of-state halfway house could not
have changed the status of the warrants, altered the bail
requirement, or otherwise relieved an arresting officer of the
obligation to arrest Plaintiff.
Accordingly, even accepting as
true Plaintiff’s allegation that he informed Defendant that he
was currently in a halfway house and that he requested that
Defendant call the halfway house, a reasonable officer would not
be compelled to make such a call; nor would such an allegation
cause a reasonable officer to conclude that there was no
probable cause to arrest.
Further, the Court notes that Plaintiff’s allegation that
he told Defendant that the case which gave rise to the warrants
was dismissed and that Plaintiff was currently in a halfway
house (Compl. 2, ECF No. 1) is unsupported by the record.
Court has reviewed the video footage of the traffic stop.
time during the arrest did Plaintiff mention that he is
currently in a halfway house.
Moreover, the video footage
reveals that Plaintiff did not inform Defendant that the case
which gave rise to the Mount Holly warrants was dismissed, as
alleged in the Complaint.
Rather, in the video footage,
Plaintiff denies ever being present in Mount Holly.
Accordingly, the Court finds that Plaintiff was untruthful about
the existence of the warrants and about the information he
relayed to Defendant during the traffic stop. See Scott v.
Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380, 127 S. Ct. 1769, 1776, 167 L. Ed. 2d
686 (2007) (“When opposing parties tell two different stories,
one of which is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no
reasonable jury could believe it, a court should not adopt that
version of the facts for purposes of ruling on a motion for
This Court concludes that, given the appearance of two
active warrants in the ACS database, a reasonable officer could
have believed that probable cause existed to arrest Plaintiff.
See Hunter, 502 U.S. at 228); Ciardiello, 390 F. App'x at 199;
Gilles, 427 F.3d at 205.
Accordingly, Defendant is entitled to
qualified immunity. See Berg, 219 F.3d at 273; Capone, 868 F.2d
2. Claims for declaratory relief against Defendant in
his Individual Capacity
Because, as set forth above, the Court finds that Defendant
is entitled to qualified immunity, any claims for declaratory
relief against Defendant in his individual capacity must be
3. Claims for declaratory relief against Defendant in
his Official Capacity
Plaintiff also seeks a declaration that “the acts and
omissions described [in the Complaint] violated plaintiff[’]s
rights under the [C]onstitution and the laws of the United
States.” (Compl. 6, ECF No. 1).
Per the Court’s December 18,
2014 Order, Plaintiff’s claim for declaratory relief against
Defendant in his official capacity was allowed to proceed.
(Order 9-10, 18, ECF No. 12).
As previously explained, a claim
for declaratory relief against an official in their official
capacity is not barred by the Eleventh Amendment. See Will v.
Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71, 109 S. Ct.
2304, 2312, 105 L. Ed. 2d 45 (1989) (quoting Kentucky v. Graham,
473 U.S. 159, 167 n.14, 105 S. Ct. 3099, 3106, 87 L. Ed. 2d 114
(1985)) (“Of course a state official in his or her official
capacity, when sued for injunctive relief, would be a person
under § 1983 because ‘official-capacity actions for prospective
relief are not treated as actions against the State.’”); Ex
parte Young, 209 U.S. 123, 28 S. Ct. 441, 52 L. Ed. 714 (1908));
see also Balgowan v. New Jersey, 115 F.3d 214, 218 (3d Cir.
1997) (holding that suit for declaratory relief against state
officer under Fair Labor Standards Act is permissible under
Young); Laskaris v. Thornburgh, 661 F.2d 23, 26 (3d Cir. 1981)
(holding that Eleventh Amendment does not bar a suit seeking
declaratory or injunctive relief against a state official acting
in in his official capacity).
Defendant does not specifically address Plaintiff’s claim
for declaratory relief in his Motion for Summary Judgment.
Instead, Defendant’s motion focuses on his entitlement to
qualified immunity and, as explained above, this Court finds
that he is so entitled.
However, although Defendant’s motion
seeks dismissal of Plaintiff’s Complaint in its entirety — and,
thus, all of Plaintiff’s claims — qualified immunity applies
only to officials sued in their individual capacities. See
Saucier, 533 U.S. at 201.
Therefore, the Court’s determination
that Defendant is entitled to qualified immunity on Plaintiff’s
false arrest claim does nothing to resolve Plaintiff’s claim for
declaratory relief against Defendant in his official capacity.
Because Defendant has not sought summary judgment on this
specific claim, and because the Court finds that summary
judgment is not appropriate based on the current record,
Defendant is not entitled to judgment as a matter of law on
Plaintiff’s claim for declaratory relief against Defendant in
his official capacity. See FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e).
For the foregoing reasons, Defendant is entitled to
qualified immunity on the claims against him in his individual
Accordingly, the Court will grant Defendant’s request
for summary judgment as to Plaintiff’s false arrest claim
against Defendant in his individual capacity.
As a result,
Plaintiff’s claim for declaratory relief against Defendant in
his individual capacity is dismissed.
However, summary judgment
is not appropriate with respect to Plaintiff’s claim for
declaratory relief against Defendant in his official capacity.
An appropriate Order follows.
__s/ Noel L. Hillman______
NOEL L. HILLMAN
United States District Judge
Dated: March 28, 2016
At Camden, New Jersey
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