WANCO v. THE TOWNSHIP OF ROCHELLE PARK et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge Kevin McNulty on 7/24/2017. (ld, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
Civ. No. 14-7413 (1KM) (JBC)
THE TOWNSHIP OF ROCHELLE
PARK, THE TOWNSHIP MANAGER OF
THE TOWNSHIP OF ROCHELLE
PARK, TOWNSHIP COMMITTEE OF
THE TOWNSHIP OF ROCHELLE
PARK, ROCHELLE PARK
VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT,
DAVID BROWN, Fire Chief, MICHAEL
STEARNS, Assistant Chief, PETER
DONATELLO JR., PETER
DONATELLO III, AND JOHN AND
JANE DOES 1-15,
KEVIN MCNULTY. U.S.D.J.:
This case arises from the removal of the plaintiff, Paul Wanco,1 from his
position as a volunteer firefighter in Rochelle Park, New Jersey. The removal
followed Wanco’s plea of guilty to a criminal charge, bias intimidation in
violation of N.J. Stat. Ann.
§ 2C: 16- 1A. Wanco brought this action against the
Township of Rochelle Park; Rochelle Park’s manager, township committee, and
volunteer fire department; and fire chief David Brown, assistant chief Michael
Steams, Peter Donatello Jr., and Peter Donatello III. Wanco asserts claims for
References to “Wanco” mean the plaintiff, Paul Wanco. Other members of his
family are identified by their first names.
wrongful discharge in violation of public policy (Count 1); breach of contract
and the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing (Count 2); defamation
(Count 3); violation of 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 and N.J. Stat. Ann. § 10:6-1
through the deprivation of his due process and equal protection rights (Counts
4, 5, and 6); and abuse of process (Count 7). (Compl.
23_55)2 Now before the
Court is Defendants’ motion for summary judgment as to all counts, pursuant
to Fed. 1?. Civ. P. 56.
Record items cited repeatedly will be abbreviated as follows:
Complaint (ECF no. 1)
Brief in Support of Defendants’ Motion for Summary
Judgment (ECF no. 38-1)
February 7, 2017 Letter to Judge McNulty (ECF no. 39)
Statement of Material Facts (ECF no. 38-3)
Defendants’ Letter Reply Brief (ECF no. 40)
A. Relevant Facts3
Paul Wanco is employed as the Fire Marshal in the Borough of Lodi, a
position he has held for approximately 13 years. (Def. Facts
3) (To be clear,
that Lodi position is not at issue here.) In or around May 2012, Wanco also
joined the Rochelle Park Volunteer Fire Department (the “Fire Department”) as
a volunteer firefighter. (Id.
1) Wanco “received no compensation for his
participation with the [Rochelle Parki Volunteer Fire Department.” (Id.
of the requirements of the Volunteer Fire Department is that a member “shall
be of good moral character and shall not have been convicted of a crime
involving moral turpitude which would, in the judgment of the Township
Committee, be prejudicial to the morals of the Fire Department.” (Id.) (citing
Rochelle Park Code
Defendants submitted a Statement of Material Facts, to which Wanco has not
responded. Defendants ask that the Court consider the facts in its statement to be
admitted for the purpose of summary judgment (Def. Reply 2), in accordance with
Local Civil Rule 56.1(a) which states:
The opponent of summan’ judgment shall furnish, with its opposition
papers, a responsive statement of material facts, addressing each
paragraph of the movant’s statement, indicating agreement or
disagreement and, if not agreed, stating each material fact in dispute and
citing to the affidavits and other documents submitted in connection
with the motion; any material fact not disputed shall be deemed
undisputed for purposes of the summary judgment motion.
Id. A failure to dispute a party’s statement of material facts, however, “is not alone a
sufficient basis for the entry of a summary judgment.” See Anchorage Assocs. u. Virgin
Islands Bd. of Tax Re View, 922 F.2d 168, 175 (3d Cir. 1990) (holding that even where
a local rule deeming unopposed motions to be conceded, the court was still required to
analyze the movant’s summary judgment motion under the standard prescribed by
Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)); see also Muskett u. Cedegy Check Sews., Inc., Civ. No. 08-3975,
2010 WL 2710555 (D.N.J. July 6, 2010) (“In order to grant Defendant’s unopposed
motion for summary judgment, where, as here, ‘the moving party does not have the
the [Courtj must determine that the
burden of proof on the relevant issues,
deficiencies in [Plaintiffsj evidence designated in or in connection with the motion
entitle the [Defendants] to judgment as a matter of law.”’ (quoting Anchorage Assocs.,
922 F.2d at 175)). I have therefore reviewed Wanco’s Complaint and letter briefs with
an eye to assertions of fact that may be supported by the evidence of record.
During the relevant period, Wanco lived with his wife and two children on
the first floor of a two-family home in Lodi. The home was owned by his 89year-old mother, Florence Wanco (“Florence”). (Def. Facts. 9 4) Florence,
together with Wanco’s 18-year-old niece, Jennifer Wanco (“Jennifer”), lived on
the second floor. (Id.)
On the afternoon of March 4, 2013, Jennifer telephoned Wanco to inform
him that Florence had fallen and that Jennifer required assistance in picking
her up off the floor. (Id. ¶31 7—8) Wanco responded that he was busy and
unavailable to help. (Id. ¶ 7) After work in Lodi, Wanco went to the firehouse
and did not return home until midnight. He did not check on his mother that
night or the following day. (Id. ¶31 9—10) At his deposition, Wanco testified that
“I just totally forgot about it and I never got another call from Jennifer.” (Id. 9 9)
The next day, on the afternoon of March 5, 2013, Jennifer called for
medical assistance. (Id. ¶ 11) A Lodi ambulance responded. A police officer who
arrived at the scene at the same time reported:
[W]e were met by a strong odor of feces and urine. We also
observed, what it appeared to be, stains of fecal matter in the area
of where the victim was laying with flies circling around in the
living room area. The stench was so overwhelming that I was
forced to make periodic trips outside to get some fresh air.
(Def. Mot. Ex. E) At some point, Hackensack paramedics arrived and began to
aid Florence. Wanco arrived on the scene around the same time as the
paramedics. Overhearing a conversation between Wanco and Jennifer, a police
officer deduced that Florence had fallen in the early afternoon on March 4 and
had been left lying “on the filthy hardwood floor all night until [Jenniferj finally
contact[edj the police” on the afternoon of March 5. (Id.)
The living conditions in the apartment were such that the medics
commented that “it is not healthy or safe for a human to live under those
circumstances.” Further, “[i]t appeared the victim had been neglected for a long
period of time and [the medics} intended to report it to social services upon
arriving [ati the hospital.” (Def. Facts ¶ 13; Ex. E)
On July 16, 2013, Wanco and Jennifer were indicted for Elder Abuse and
Aggravated Assault. (Def. Facts
18) Wanco advised the Fire Department of his
19) In Wanco’s words, the news “also made the papers very
quickly, so everyone was aware of it.” (Id.; citing Def. Mot. Ex. D 30:19—20)
Nearly one year later, on June 3, 2014, Wanco pled guilty to the lesser
charge of bias intimidation, N.J. Stat. Ann.
2C:16-1A. During his plea
allocution, Wanco made the following statement under oath:
I reside on the first floor [of a two family home in] Lodi, New Jersey
with my wife and two children. My late mother Florence lived on
the second floor apartment with my brother who is now deceased
and his daughter Jennifer. On March 4, 2013 I was working as I do
everyday. I am an employee of the Borough of Lodi as fire marshal,
code enforcement officer. On March 4, 2013, I received a phone call
from Jennifer Wanco advising me that my mother Florence had
fallen. Jennifer claims she tried to call me two other times. My
mother was eighty-eight years of age. I knew that she needed help
but I refused to assist her because I was working. I realize that she
might suffer additional injuries if I didn’t help. I found out later
that she suffered injuries from the fall and that she probably
suffered additional injuries because she was lying there for so
many hours because I did not help her. My mother was a burden
due to her disabilities and old age. I did not want her bothering me
at work and I wanted to intimidate her so that she would stay out
of my business and leave me alone. I knew she was old and infirm
but I wanted to send her a message that I was not at her beck and
call even if she was old and disabled. I think she got the message
because she remained on the floor of the apartment for a long time
and told Jennifer that she didn’t want her to call me for help. And
I’m sorry for what happened but we had a difficult relationship.
And when she became old and feeble she needed to be taught that
I was not going to run for any reason she asked. After these events
we made some peace with each other.
21; citing Def. Mot. Ex. H)
On June 3, 2014, the Cliffview Pilot published an unflattering, three-
page article titled, “Lodi fire marshal avoids prison, keeps pension in admitting
abuse of elderly mother.” (DeL Facts
24) The article quoted the majority of
Wanco’s plea allocution. (Id.) Similar articles appeared in other publications,
including The Record of Bergen County. (Id.
On June 9, 2014, Wanco met with Chief David Brown and other Fire
Department officials. During the meeting, Chief Brown addressed Wanco’s
recent conviction and informed him that as a result of his guilty plea, Wanco
was disqualified from service as a volunteer member of the Fire Department.
During their conversation, Chief Brown stated that he was not comfortable
with Wanco dealing with senior citizens. (Id.
44) Chief Brown afforded Wanco
the opportunity to resign, and Wanco stated that he would speak to his
attorney. At that point, Chief Brown relieved Wanco of his duties as a volunteer
27; Def. Mot. Ex. J) Also on June 9, 2014, Chief Brown
advised the Fire Commissioner of Wanco’s removal in writing. (Def. Facts
Def. Mot. Ex. K)
In a letter to Rochelle Park’s attorney, dated June 11, 2014, Wanco’s
attorney, Frank Cozzarelli, requested that Wanco be reinstated to his volunteer
position. Cozzarelli alleged that Wanco’s removal was improper and requested
that the Fire Department consider the letter both as a challenge to Wanco’s
removal and as an “appeal from Chief Brown’s determination to the Police
Department Criminal Background and Check Appeal Panel.” (Def. Facts
On July 18, 2014, Rochelle Park’s attorney responded, advising that he would
not comment on the merits of the removal because of the possibility that it
would be reviewed by the Township Committee, (Id.
Cozzarelli responded that Wanco was not aware of the reason for his
removal until he received the July 18, 2014 letter. (Id.
31) This was seemingly
incorrect; at the time of his removal on June 9, 2014, Wanco had been advised
of the reason. (Id.) Rochelle Park has an appeals procedure for disciplinary
actions, and on July 31, 2014, Rochelle Park’s attorney advised Cozzarelli to
review it. (Id.
32) On August 4, 2014, Cozzarelli requested a copy of the
disciplinary charges and evidence that Chief Brown had complied with Rochelle
On August 8, 2014, Wanco was sentenced for the bias intimidation
offense to which he had pled guilty. (Def. Mot. Ex. T) In entering into the plea,
Wanco had requested that his plea have no effect on his position as a Fire
Marshal in the Borough of Lodi (again, a different position from the Rochelle
Park volunteer fire fighter position at issue here). (Def. Facts
40) Wanco had
previously executed a Plea Form stating that: (1) “The Prosecutor will request a
waiver of Disqualification from Public Employment under 2C: 51-2 and I will be
allowed to continue to work as a Fire Marshal and Fire Code Enforcement
Official in the discretion of the appointing authority. This conviction will not be
a disqualifying offense.”; and (2) “The Prosecutor will stipulate that the offense
to which I am pleading does not involve dishonest[}y and does not touch
and/or concern my office, position, or employment.” (Def. Facts
Cozzarelli explained to the Superior Court at Wanco’s sentencing that he
“would like to continue to do that which is why we presented your Honor with
the supplement to the judgment which declares he’s not barred from holding
his position as a fire marshal,” La, the Lodi position. (Id. Ex. T 3:11—14) In
sentencing Wanco, the Superior Court adhered to the terms of the Plea. (Id.
As noted above, Cozzarelli had complained, at least informally, about
alleged procedural irregularities in connection with the Rochelle Park
dismissal. On August 20, 2014, “in light of the procedural discrepancies
between the parties,” Rochelle Park advised Cozzarelli that it would “restart the
disciplinary process in order to cure all perceived procedural defects.” (Id. ¶ 34)
On September 25, 2014, Wanco was served with a Statement of Charges. There
were two: 1) “Conviction of an offense punishable under the laws or statutes of
the United States, the State of New Jersey or Municipal Ordinances”; and 2)
“Conduct unbecoming a member of the Rochelle Park Volunteer Fire
Department.” The Statement of Charges concluded, “Firefighter Paul Wanco,
therefore, charged with conduct unbecoming a firefighter, conviction of a crime
involving moral turpitude which would be prejudicial to the morals of the Fire
Ex. U, the plea form, is omitted from Defendants’ papers. There seems to be no
dispute about its contents, however.
Department and was convicted of a crime which violated the laws of the State
¶ 35; Def. Mot. Ex. R) Wanco testified that he received the
Statement of Charges several days after September 25, 2014. (Id. 1 36)
of New Jersey.” (Id.
On October 3, 2014, Cozzarelli responded that the Statement of Charges
was improper and demanded that the charges be withdrawn. Chief Brown, he
said, “did not bring any charges and failed in every respect to follow the
protocols that you claim to he following at this juncture.” Cozzarelli did not
appeal the decision or request a hearing, however. In particular, he failed to
take advantage of the appeals process under Rochelle Park Code
¶ 38) At his deposition, Wanco testified that he was unaware that his
attorney had failed to request a hearing. (Def. Mot. Ex. D 98:15—19)
B. Procedural History
On November 28, 2014, Wanco, through Cozzarelli, filed his Complaint
with this Court. On July 19, 2016, Cozzarelli informed the Court that he had
been disbarred and was no longer representing Wanco. (ECF no. 25) No
substitute attorney has appeared on Wanco’s behalf. On January 27, 2017,
Defendants moved for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. That
motion is now before the Court.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment
should be granted “if the movant shows 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); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
248, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986); Kreschollek u. S. Stevedoring Co., 223 F.3d 202,
204 (3d Cir. 2000). In deciding a motion for summary judgment, a court must
construe all facts and inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving
party. See Boyle v. County of Allegheny Pennsylvania, 139 F.3d 386, 393 (3d
Cir. 1998). The moving party bears the burden of establishing that no genuine
issue of material fact remains. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322—
23, 106 5. Ct. 2548 (1986). “fW]ith respect to an issue on which the nonmoving
party bears the burden of proof.
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.” Celotex, 477
U.S. at 325.
Once the moving party has met that threshold burden, the non-moving
party “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt
as to material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475
U.s. 574, 586, 106 S. Ct. 1348 (1986). The opposing party must present actual
evidence that creates a genuine issue as to a material fact for trial. Anderson,
477 U.S. at 248; see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c) (setting forth types of evidence on
which nonmoving party must rely to support its assertion that genuine issues
of material fact exist). “[Ujnsupported allegations
and pleadings are
insufficient to repel summary’ judgment.” Schoch v. First Fid. Bancorporation,
912 F.2d 654, 657 (3d Cir. 1990); see also Gleason v. Nonvest Mong., Inc., 243
F.3d 130, 138 (3d Cir. 2001) (“A nonmoving party has created a genuine issue
of material fact if it has provided sufficient evidence to allow a jury to find in its
favor at trial.”). If the nonmoving party has failed “to make a showing sufficient
to establish the existence of an element essential to that party’s case, and on
which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial,
there can be ‘no
genuine issue of material fact,’ since a complete failure of proof concerning an
essential element of the nonmoving party’s case necessarily renders all other
facts immaterial.” Katz u. Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co., 972 F.2d 53, 55 (3d Cir. 1992)
(quoting Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322—23).
A pro se litigant is ordinarily entitled to considerable leeway. See Niblack
v. Murray, No. CV12691OMASTJB, 2016 WL 4086775, at *1 n.1 (D.N.J. July
29, 2016) (citing Pratt
Port Auth. of N. Y. & N.J., 563 F. App’x 132, 134 (3d
Cir. 2014) (“[B]ecause [the plaintiffj is proceeding pro se, we will construe his
brief liberally.”); Marcinek v. Comm’r, 467 F. App’x 153, 154 (3d Cir. 2012)
(holding that courts are “under an obligation to liberally construe the
submissions of a pro se litigant”)). See generally Haines v. Kemer, 404 U.S. 519
This is an unusual case. On November 28, 2014, the date Wanco filed
the Complaint, he was represented by counsel, Frank J. Cozzarelli. He
continued to be represented by Cozzarelli for over one-and-a-half years until
Cozzarelli was disbarred. (See July 19, 2016 Letter from Frank Cozzarelli, ECF
no. 25) Cozzarelli’s withdrawal preceded Defendants’ summary judgment
motion. Wanco has proceeded pro se, and states that he attempted to obtain
counsel, but no attorney would take his case at this late stage. (P1. Opp. 1)
Therefore, although Wanco was represented by counsel for much of this case, I
have construed Wanco’s Complaint and his opposition to the summary
judgment motion in the liberal spirit of Haines.
DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS
Wrongful Discharge in Violation of Public Policy (Count
In Count 1, Wanco alleges that he was wrongfully discharged from his
volunteer fire fighter position in violation of public policy. (Compl.
Pierce v. Ortho Pharmaceutical Corp., the New Jersey Supreme Court recognized
that “an employee has a cause of action for wrongful discharge when the
discharge is contranr to a clear mandate of public policy.” 84 N.J. 58, 417 A.2d
505, 512 (1980). However, in Versarge v. Township of Clinton, a case brought
by a volunteer firefighter, the court observed that “New Jersey courts have not
expanded this principle to include expulsion from volunteer organizations.” Civ.
No. 90—257(CSF), 1991 WL247611, at*l1 (D.N.J. Nov. 18, 1991), affid, 984
F.2d 1359, 1371 (3d Cir. 1993). The parties have not pointed to, and this Court
is not aware of, any intervening New Jersey cases expanding this public-policy
cause of action to a plaintiff removed from a volunteer position.5
There are other problems with Wanco’s wrongful discharge claim.
First, claims of wrongful discharge in violation of public policy generally relate
to the reason for the discharge, not to the employer’s adherence to discharge
procedures. The doctrine was not developed to require procedural protections; such
Accordingly, I will grant summary judgment in favor of Defendants on
Breach of Contract and Breach of the Implied Covenant
of Good Faith and Fair Dealing (Count 2)
In Count 2, Wanco asserts a claim for breach of the implied covenant of
good faith and fair dealing against defendants. (Compl.
30) This count may
also be liberally construed to assert a claim for breach of contract. Either way,
Wanco fails to demonstrate a genuine issue for trial on any contract-based
To state a claim for breach of contract, a plaintiff “must allege (1) a
contract between the parties; (2) a breach of that contract; (3) damages flowing
there from; and (4) that the party stating the claim performed its own
contractual obligations.” Frederico v. Home Depot, 507 F.3d 188, 203 (3d Cir.
2007). “In order for a valid contract to exist, Plaintiff must show mutual assent,
consideration, legality of the object of the contract, capacity of the parties and
form[ality] of memorialization.” Fletcher-Harlee Corp. u. Pote Concrete
Contractors, Inc., 421 F. Supp. 2d 831, 833 (D.N.J. 2006) (citing Cohn v. Fisher,
118 N.J. Super. 286, 291, 287 A.2d 222 (1972)).
Wanco has failed to point to any evidence that a valid contract existed.
His Complaint alleges in concluson’ terms that “[t]here is a contractual
procedural requirements have their origin elsewhere, in due process, statutory, and
regulatory law. Rather, the tort was developed to fill a gap in the law by prohibiting the
discharge of nominally at-will employees for reasons that violate public policy. See
Pierce, 84 N.J. at 73, 417 A.2d at 512 (“Employees will be secure in knowing that their
jobs are safe if they exercise their rights in accordance with a clear mandate of public
policy. On the other hand, employers will know that unless they act contrary to public
policy, they may discharge employees at will for any reason.”) Thus the doctrine is best
viewed as a limitation on the nile that employment in New Jersey is at-will unless the
parties contract otherwise.
Second, “more is needed than simply the breach of public policy affecting a
single person’s rights to constitute the breach of a ‘clear mandate’ of public policy that
Pierce requires.” Hennessey u. Coastal Eagle Paint Oil Co., 129 N.J. 81, 99, 609 A.2d
11, 19—20 (1992). Wanco, however, alleges procedural violations as to himself only.
relationship between the plaintiff and defendants as relating to plaintiffs
position as a volunteer fireman.” (Compl.
30) That, however, is a bare
allegation. Wanco provides no evidence of any memorialized contract between
himself and the Fire Department.6 Nor has he specified the substance of any
alleged agreement, whether written or oral.
“There is no universally-accepted test for establishing a breach of the
duty of good faith and fair dealing, but two elements appear to recur with some
frequency: (1) the defendant acts in bad faith or with a malicious motive, (2) to
deny the plaintiff some benefit of the bargain originally intended by the parties,
even if that benefit was not an express provision of the contract.” Yapak, LLC v.
Massachusetts Bay Ins. Co., No. CIV. 3:09-CV-3370, 2009 WL 3366464, at *2
(D.N.J. Oct. 16, 2009) (citing Brunswick Hills Racquet Club, Inc. a Route 18
Shopping Ctr. Assocs., 182 N.J. 210, 225, 864 A.2d 387 (2005); Wilson v.
Amerada Hess Corp., 168 N.J. 236, 251, 773 A.2d 1121 (2001)). The baseline
principle, however, is that the implied covenant is a term of a contract: “in the
absence of a contract, there can be no breach of an implied covenant of good
faith and fair dealing.” Noye v. Hoffmann-La Roche Inc., 238 N.J. Super. 430,
Wanco has not asserted a Woolley claim. At any rate, any claim that the
ordinances of the Rochelle Park Code constitute an implied contract, would fail as a
matter of law.
True, an agreement restricting an employer’s freedom to terminate an at-will
employee “can be implied from a widely distributed employment manual that
articulates terms and conditions of employment, including grounds and procedures for
termination.” Russelman v. ExxonMobil Corp., No. CIV. 12-752 RBK/AMD, 2012 WI..
3038589, at S (D.N.J. July 25, 2012) (citing id. at 553). A claim for breach of such an
agreement is known as a Woolley claim, after the New Jersey Supreme Court case that
recognized it, Woolley v. Hoffmann-La Roche, Inc., 99 N.J. 284, 491 A.2d 1257 (1985).
Unlike handbooks distributed by an employer to its employees, municipal
ordinances establishing disciplinary procedures do not imply any “contractual right to
membership.” See Peters v. Silverton Volunteer Fire Co. No. 1, No. A-3498-14T1, 2016
WL 6518595, at *5 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. Nov. 3, 2016) (“Although the bylaws
included procedures for accepting and expelling members, those provisions did not
create a contractual right to membership.”). Further, even assuming arguendo that a
particular municipal ordinance is functionally similar to procedural protections in an
employee handbook, New Jersey courts have not expanded the application of Woolley
claims to include the removal of a volunteer from his or her position.
433, 570 A.2d 12, 14 (App. Div. 1990). Because there is no evidence that there
was a contract at all, Wanco’s claim for a breach of the implied covenant of
good faith and fair dealing necessarily fails.
Accordingly, I will grant summan’ judgment in favor of Defendants on
Due Process (Counts 4, 5, and 6)
In Counts 4, 5, and 6, Wanco asserts a Section 1983 claim alleging that
Defendants violated his rights under the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment to the United States Constitution.8 He similarly asserts an NJCRA
claim, alleging violations of his due process rights under the New Jersey
Constitution.9 Wanco argues that he had a property interest in his position as
a volunteer firefighter, and that he was denied substantive and procedural due
I treat Count 3 (defamation) out of order, together with the other state law tort
claim, Count 7 (abuse of process), in section IV.5, below.
Section 1983 provides that:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation,
custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia,
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. Thus, to sufficiently set forth a Section 1983 claim, a complaint
must allege the violation of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United
States, and that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under color of
state law. See Harvey ii. Plains Twp. Police Dep’t, 635 F.3d 606, 609 (3d Cir. 2011)
(citations omitted); see also West a Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48, 108 S. Ct. 2250 (1988).
Or so it would appear. Although the Complaint is not explicit, I will assume that
Wanco intended to bring a parallel claim under the New Jersey Civil Rights Act (the
“NJCRA”), N.J. Stat. Ann. § 10:6-1 et seq. The NJCRA “was modeled after 42 U.S.C. §
1983, and creates a private cause of action for violations of civil rights secured under
the New Jersey Constitutions.” Trafton a City of Woodbunj, 799 F. Supp. 2d 417, 443
(D.N.J. 2011). It makes Little difference, however. “This district has repeatedly
interpreted NJCRA analogously to § 1983.” Id
process because he was removed from his position arbitrarily, capriciously, and
without pre-deprivation notice and hearing.10
“ITihe requirements of due process do not apply when the property
interest involved is ‘de minimis.tm Id. (citing Doss v. Lopez, 419 U.S. 565, 576,
95 S. Ct. 729, 736 (1975)). In a case similar to Wanco’s, the Third Circuit has
held that any benefit a volunteer firefighter obtained through his position was
“de minimis” for these purposes. Versarge v. Twp. of Clinton N.J., 984 F.2d
1359, 1370 (3d Cir. 1993). See also Peters v. Silvedon Volunteer Fire Co. No. 1,
No. A-3498-14T1, 2016 WL 6518595, at *5 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. Nov. 3,
2016) (“[T]he benefits afforded to plaintiff as a volunteer firefighter did not rise
to the level of property protected by constitutional due process.”). Although
Wanco alleges a deprivation of property rights, the record on summary
judgment does not support a finding that he had any more than a de minimis
property right in his volunteer firefighter position.’1 Accordingly, Wanco’s
In Count 4 Wanco alleges that:
abused authority by summarily removing the plaintiff
from the premises without the benefit of having charges prjojfened
against him or the ability to defend those charges
purpose of depriving the Plaintiff
exercised their authority .
right to continue as a member of the Volunteer Fire Department.
The continued and ongoing deprivation of the right to participate in the
activities of the defendant Volunteer Fire Department is and continues to
be a depr[ijvation of liberty and property rights without due process of
law as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States
Constitution and the New Jersey Constitution.
(Compl. ‘ 42) In Count 5 he further alleges that he “has been deprived of his property,
civil liberties and civil rights by the arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable actions of
Defendants under color of state law in violation of 42 U.S.C. j 1983.” (Compl. ¶ 44)
Similarly, in Count 6:
The removal of the Plaintiff from his position without a hearing or other
process of any sort is based upon an arbitrary, capricious and
unreasonable classification without a rational basis in law or in fact.
In Versarge, the plaintiff claimed that his voluntary position carried protectable
ancillary benefits: “(1) training; (2) workers’ compensation; and (3) access to the
firehouse as a social area.” Versarge, 984 F.2d at 1370. These were held insufficient.
volunteer position was not entitled to substantive or constitutional due process
protections.’2 See id.
In Houston v. Randolph, 934 F. Supp. 2d 711, 734 (D.N.J. 2013), affd, 559 F. App’x
139 (3d Cir. 2014), I applied Versage and held that a volunteer firefighter trainer
position did not rise to the level of a protected property interest merely because it
involved certain ancillary benefits, such as accumulated points that could lead to
incentive payments. Here, Wanco alleges less; he received no compensation for his role
as a volunteer firefighter (Def. Facts ¶ 2), and he specifies no other ancillary benefit of
Wanco also alleges that:
Defendants failed to abide the adjudication of the Superior Court of New
Jersey Ithat the conviction of the criminal offense to which the plaintiff
pled guilty would not and does not disqualify the plaintiff from holding
the position [of Firefighter First Class] and unilaterally acted to deprive
the plaintiff of his position as a Firefighter First Class.”
(Compl. ¶ 48; see also P1. Opp. 1) Setting aside the irrelevance of these allegations to a
Due Process claim, they are not borne out by the evidence as to this volunteer fire
fighter position in Rochelle Park.
Under N.J. Stat. Ann § 2C:51-2(a),
A person holding any public office, position, or employment, elective or
appointive, under the government of this State or any agency or political
subdivision thereof, who is convicted of an offense shall forfeit such
office, position or employment if:
(1) He is convicted under the laws of this State of an offense
involving dishonesty’ or of a crime of the third degree or above or
under the laws of another state or of the United States of an
offense or a crime which, if committed in this State, would be such
an offense or crime;
(2) He is convicted of an offense involving or touching such office,
position or employment; or
(3) The Constitution so provides.
Id. As part of Wanco’s plea, the prosecutor sought and obtained a waiver of this
provision with respect to position in Lodi as a Fire Marshal and Fire Code Enforcement
Official, but not with respect to his position in Rochelle Park as a volunteer firefighter.
(See Def. Facts ¶ 40—43; Def. Mot. Ex. D 65— 69; Ex. T, 3:11—14) This could not have
been an oversight, or a failure to predict a problem in Rochelle Park. The sentencing
took place in August, and Wanco had already been removed from his Rochelle Park
volunteer firefighter position in June.
Further, even if the waiver of 2C:51-2 had also focused on his volunteer
position, Wanco would be mistaken in interpreting a waiver of a statute requiring
forfeiture of a position as a prohibition against disciplinary’ action, including removal,
in connection with the guilty plea.
Additionally, to the extent Wanco alleges that Defendants
unconstitutionally infringed on his liberty and property interests in his
personal reputation, he has failed to demonstrate a genuine issue of material
fact. As the Third Circuit has held, “Stigma to reputation alone, absent some
accompanying deprivation of present or future employment, is not a liberty
interest protected by the fourteenth amendment.” Versarge, 984 F.2d at 1371
(quoting Robb v. City of Phila., 733 F.2d 286, 294 (3d Cir. 1984)). Here, Wanco
has not alleged or put forth evidence of any deprivation of present or future
employment as a result of his removal from his volunteer firefighter position.
On Counts 4, 5, and 6, to the extent they allege a deprivation of due
process, summary judgment is awarded to defendants.
EquaL Protection (Counts 4, 5, and 6)
The Complaint repeatedly asserts that Defendants violated Wanco’s right
to the “equal protection of the law.” (See Compl.
12, 15—18, 21—22, 41)1
therefore interpret Counts 4, 5, and 6 as having an equal protection
component. However, Wanco’s invocation of the Equal Protection Clause of the
Fourteenth Amendment or the parallel protections of the New Jersey
Constitution is in vain.
The Fourteenth Amendment provides that no State shall “deny to any
person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” U.S. Const.
1. “Article I, paragraph 1 of the New Jersey Constitution has
been interpreted ‘as conferring the right of equal treatment under the law, a
right analogous to the guarantee of equal protection under the Fourteenth
Amendment.”’ In re D’Aconti, 316 N.J. Super. 1, 19, 719 A.2d 652, 660, 1998
WL 735897 (App. Div. 1998) (citing Doe v. Poritz, 142 N.J 1, 43, 662 A.2d 367
To state a traditional equal protection claim, a plaintiff must allege facts
showing the existence of purposeful discrimination. Chambers ex rel. Chambers
v. Sch. Dist. of Phila. Bd. of Educ., 587 F.3d 176, 196 (3d Cir. 2009) (citing
Andrews u. City of Philadelphia, 895 F.2d 1469, 1478 (3d Cir. 1990)). The
plaintiff must have received treatment different from that received by other
individuals similarly situated. Id.
Most commonly, a plaintiff will allege that a state actor intentionally
discriminated because of his or her membership in a protected class, such as a
racial or religious minority. Lande u. City of Bethlehem, 457 F. App’x 188, 192
(3d Cir. 2012) (citing Chambers, 587 F.3d at 196). Wanco never alleges
membership in a protected class.
Alternatively, however, a plaintiff may assert an Equal Protection claim
under a “class of one” theory. Lanin a Borough of Tenafly, No. 2:12-02725 KM
MCA, 2014 WL 31350, at *8 (D.N.J. Jan. 2, 2014).
A “class of one” Equal Protection claim asserts that a person was
“intentionally treated differently from others similarly situated and
that there is no rational basis for the difference in treatment.”
Village of Willowbrook v. Olech, 528 U.S. 562, 564, 120 S. Ct. 1073,
145 L.Ed.2d 1060 (2000). The plaintiff must allege: “(1) the
defendant treated him differently from others similarly situated, (2)
the defendant did so intentionally, and (3) there was no rational
basis for the difference in treatment.” Hill v. Borough of Kutztown,
455 F.3d 225, 239 (3d Cir. 2006).
Id. at *7; see also Ecotone Farm LLC ii. Ward, 639 F. App’x 118, 124 (3d Cir.
However, “the class-of-one theory of equal protection has no application
in the public employment context.” Engquist u. Oregon Dep’t of Agr., 553 U.S.
591, 607, 128 S. Ct. 2146, 2156 (2008). That is so because “federal court is not
the appropriate forum in which to review the multitude of personnel decisions
that are made daily by public agencies.” Id. at 609 (citing Bishop v. Wood, 426
U.S. 341, 394, 96 S. Ct. 2074, 2080 (1976)). District Judge Vazquez has held
that that principle applies afortiori to a volunteer position; like him, I “can find
no sound reason why the holding in Engquist would not apply with equal force
to public volunteers. Indeed, employees who are compensated for their work
would seem to be entitled to greater protections than unpaid volunteers, who
receive only ancillary benefits and no monetary compensation.” O’Toole a
Klingen, No. CV 14-6333, 2017 WL 132840, at *10 (D.N.J. Jan. 13, 2017)
(Vazquez, J.). See also Houston v. Randolph, 934 F. Supp. 2d 711, 736-37
(D.N.J. 2013) (McNulty, J.), aff’d, 559 F. App’x 139 (3d Cir. 2014) (declining to
apply class-of-one theory’ in the context of alleged discrimination in connection
with volunteer firefighter trainer position).
“Public employees typically have a variety of protections from just the
sort of personnel actions about which [Wanco] complains, but the Equal
Protection Clause is not one of them.” Engquist, 553 U.S. at 609. Accordingly,
Wanco’s claim of Equal Protection violations cannot survive summary
Defamation and Abuse of Process (Counts 3 and 7)
Wanco also asserts two state law tort claims: defamation and abuse of
process. Both fail because Wanco did not conform to the procedural
requirement of the New Jersey Tort Claims Act. In the alternative, each fails to
state a claim.
New Jersey Tort Claims Act Notice Requirement
Under the New Jersey Tort Claims Act (“NJTCA”), a plaintiff in a tort
action against a public entity or public employee must provide notice of his
claim no later than ninety days after the claim has accrued. N.J. Stat. Ann.
59:8—8 (“A claim relating to a cause of action for.
or to property shall be presented
injury or damage to person
not later than the 90th day after accrual
of the cause of action.”); see also Carmichael v. Pennsauken Township. Ed. of
Ed., 462 F. Supp. 2d 601, 616 (D.N.J. 2006) (stating that the notice
requirement applies to “public employees]”). This notice requirement applies to
all common law tort actions, including actions for defamation and for abuse of
process. See Velez v. City of Jersey City, 180 N.J. 284, 296, 850 A.2d 1238
(2004) (finding “no justification” for the notion that NJTCA’s notice requirement
did not apply to all “common law tort claims” against public employees liable
under the Act); Michoels v. State of N.J., 955 F. Supp. 315, 329 (D.N.J. 1996)
(inter alia, dismissing abuse of process claim for failure to comply with NJTCA’s
notice requirement); May v. Borough of Pine Hill, 755 F. Supp. 2d 623, 630
(D.N.J. 2010) (dismissing defamation claim for failure to comply with NJTCA’s
notice requirement). Where a plaintiff fails to provide notice, the suit will be
dismissed. See Lassoff v. New Jersey, 414 F. Supp. 2d483, 489 (D.N.J. 2006).
Defendants are all public entities or public employees within the
meaning of the NJTCA. See Peters v. Silverton Volunteer Fire Co. No. 1, No. A
3498-14T1, 2016 WL 6518595, at *6 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. Nov. 3, 2016)
(“The [NJ]TCA applies to volunteer emergency service providers, such as the
Fire Company.”) (citing Pallister u. Spotswood First Aid Squad, 355 N.J. Super.
278, 28 1—82 (App. Div. 2002)). The individual defendants are either the
Township Manager or members of the Fire Department and acted in that
Wanco does not allege that he complied with the NJTCA’s notice
requirement. Reviewing the record, I find no evidence that any of Defendants
ever received such notice. See Epstein v. State, 311 N.J. Super. 350, 355—56,
709 A.2d 1353 (App. Div.), cert. denied, 155 N.J. 589, 715 A.2d 992 (1998)
(barring claims for, inter alia, malicious prosecution based on plaintiffs failure
to file timely notice of claim with local public entity). In fact, the NJTCA
requires that a tort plaintiff wait “six months from the date notice of claim is
received,” before filing suit in court. N.J. Stat. Ann.
59:8—8. Wanco filed suit
in November 2014, within six months after his removal from the Fire
Department in June 2014, and less than two months after Wanco’s counsel
threatened suit in October.’3
In a letter dated October 3, 2014, Wanco’s erstwhile counsel, Frank Cozzarelli,
threatened that the Fire Department’s failure to withdraw charges and reinstate
Wanco within 48 hours would result in a section 1983 civil rights lawsuit against “all
officers, directors, trustees, and agents of the Town and the Volunteer Fire
Department.” (Def. Mot. Ex. S) Among other deficiencies, the letter does not fully or
substantially comply with the NJTCA notice because it mentions only a constitutional
civil rights suit but fails to provide notice of defamation, abuse of process, or indeed
any state law tort. In short, the demand letter provides no notice of a tort claim.
Wanco’s state law tort claims against Defendants cannot succeed
because Wanco failed to comply with the notice requirements of the NJTCA.
Accordingly, I will grant summary judgment for Defendants on Counts 3 and 7.
In addition, however, and in the alternative, Wanco’s defamation and
abuse of process claims are substantively deficient, as explained in the
following subsections (b) and (c).
Defamation (Count 3)
Wanco’s Complaint alleges defamation in that Defendants “have claimed
and asserted that the plaintiff pled guilty to a crime of moral turpitude.”
36) However, when asked at his deposition about his defamation
claim, he focused instead on the statement by Chief Brown that he was
uncomfortable with Wanco dealing with senior citizens. (Del Ex. D, 125:3—9)
As a matter of law, neither statement will support a defamation claim.
In order to state a claim for defamation under New Jersey law, “a plaintiff
must show that the defendant (1) made a false and defamatory statement
concerning the plaintiff, (2) communicated the statement to a third party, and
(3) had a sufficient degree of fault.” Mangan
Corp. Synergies Grp., Inc., 834 F.
Supp. 2d 199, 204 (D.N.J. 2011).
The first element, whether a statement is defamatory, requires an
analysis of”(1) the content, (2) the verifiability, and (3) the context” of the
statement. Leang v. Jersey City Bc!. Of Edue., 969 A.2d 1097, 1113 (N.J. 2009).
Factual statements are those capable of verification, i.e., subject to proof of
truth or falsity in relation to external realities; pure opinion statements are not
capable of such verification because they reflect only one’s state of mind. See
Zelikovsky, 643 A.2d 972, 979 (N.J. 1994). New Jersey also recognizes
a distinction “between genuinely defamatory communications as opposed to
obscenities, vulgarities, insults, epithets, name-calling, and other verbal
abuse.” Id. Only where the allegedly defamatory’ statements imply reasonably
specific assertions of fact will the claim be allowed to proceed. See id.
The second element, communication to a third party, is self-explanatory
in most cases.
The third element of defamation is a sufficient degree of fault.
Defamation requires a showing of actual malice where the victim is a public
figure, and negligence where the victim is a private figure. See New York Times
Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 279—80 (1964); Costello v. Ocean Cnty. Observer,
643 A.2d 1012, 1021 (N.J. 1994).
Additionally, “New Jersey courts ‘have long recognized the existence of a
qualified privilege that confers immunity upon a public official for defamation
uttered in relation to matters committed by law to his control or supervision.’”
9 n.19 (D.N.J.
Andros v. Gross, No. CIV. 03-1775 (JBS), 2005 WL 3500058, at
Dec. 21, 2005), aff’d in part, 294 F. App’x 731 (3d Cir. 2008) (citing Brayshaw
v. Gelber, 232 N.J. Super. 99, 112 (App. Div. 1989); N.J. Stat. Ann.
(“A public employee acting in the scope of his employment is not liable for an
injury caused by his misrepresentation.”)). That immunity is lost only if “the
defamation is made with actual malice in the New York Times v. Sullivan [cited
supra] sense: ‘with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of
whether it was false or not.” Burke v. Deiner, 97 N.J. 465, 475 (1984) (internal
i. Moral Turpitude Charge
Chief Brown’s written Statement of Charges dated September 25, 2014,
states, inter alia, that Wanco is “charged with
conviction of a crime
involving moral turpitude which would be prejudicial to the morals of the Fire
Department.” (Def. Mot. Ex. R) Wanco’s claim for defamation based on this
statement fails for many reasons.
First, Wanco has failed to demonstrate a genuine issue of fact as to
whether Chief Brown issued that charge with actual malice. The actual malice
standard applies here, perhaps because Wanco was a public figure, but
certainly because the utterance was made in relation to Fire Department
disciplinary procedures, a “matter committed by law to [Chief Brown’s] control
Of course, it is uncontested that Wanco was convicted and sentenced for
the crime of bias intimidation; the issue here is whether Brown defamed him
by referring to the crime as one of moral turpitude. There is no evidence that
Chief Brown acted with actual malice in making that statement.
“Moral turpitude” itself is a difficult term to define:
[Moral turpitude] has been defined as an “act of baseness, vileness,
or depravity in the private and social duties which a man owes to
his fellow men, to society in general, contrary to the accepted and
customary rule of right and duty between man and man,’.
as, ‘in its legal sense * * * everything done contrary to justice,
But the attempt to apply
honesty, modesty, or good morals.’.
these definitions to specific criminal acts, especially in the context
of license revocation proceedings, has demonstrated only the
elasticity of the phrase and its necessarily adaptive character,
reflective at all times of the common moral sense prevailing
throughout the community.
In reLicense of Fanelli, 174 N.J. 165, 176, 803 A.2d 1146, 1153 (2002) (citing
State Rd. of Med. Examiners v. Weiner, 68 N.J. Super. 468, 483, 172 A.2d 661,
669 (App. Div. 1961)). Chief Brown could reasonably have thought that
Wanco’s offense fit the bill. The offenses with which Wanco was originally
charged, Elder Abuse and Aggravated Assault, even on their face, fit within the
flexible definition of moral turpitude. True, the charge to which Wanco pled
guilty, bias intimidation, is a lesser offense. Assuming the case is doubtful, a
court might look past the elements of the offense to the facts of the case.14 On
J acknowledge that Wanco testified at his deposition that he had reservations
about the content of his plea allocution but was advised by his attorney that it “had to
be read the way it was written.” (Def. Mot. D 56:8—22) Addifionaily, when asked
whether he could understand why someone would think that the “things that you
testified with Lini your statement at the plea hearing” were “a bad thing,” Wanco
answered, “Nope, because I know the truth behind it.” (Id. 9 1:9—13)
However, aside from the fact that Wanco’s plea allocudon was made under
oath, it is not this Court’s task in this case to determine what in fact Wanco knew or
did regarding his mother’s fall in March 2013. What is before this Court is Wanco’s
claim that Chief Brown defamed him. The success of that claim depends, inter alia. on
these facts, there is little doubt that Chief Brown could have legitimately
considered this offense one of moral turpitude. Irrespective of whether a New
Jersey court would ultimately agree with Chief Brown, there is no evidence that
Chief Brown knew or recklessly disregarded the possibility that Wanco’s
conviction for bias intimidation did not involve moral turpitude. The offense, as
narrated in Wanco’s plea allocution, and subsequently reported by the press—
was “contrary to
good morals” and otherwise met the elastic definition of
moral turpitude. Wanco has presented no evidence to indicate otherwise.
Therefore, Wanco is unable to prove the requisite amount of fault to meet the
third element of a defamation claim, or to overcome the public-function
Second, for many of the same reasons, the statement cannot really be
regarded as defamatory at all. It is not “false.” There is no doubt that Wanco
pled guilty to this offense, and “moral turpitude” seems at best to be an opinion
or judgment call.’5
ii. Discomfort about Wanco’s Dealing with
At his deposition, Wanco focused on Chief Brown’s statement that he
was uncomfortable with Wanco dealing with senior citizens. (DeL Lx. D, 125:3—
9) That statement does not constitute defamation.
First, Chief Brown’s statement is one of pure opinion not capable of
verification because it reflects only Chief Brown’s state of mind, and is
Chief Brown’s state of mind when he made his statement, which was undoubtedly
informed by news reports of Wanco’s plea allocution. The “truth behind” the allocution
is irrelevant, unless Wanco can demonstrate that Chief Brown knew that the contents
of the allocudon were false or recklessly disregarded its veracity.
These grounds are sufficient, but I also note that the evidence is equivocal as to
whether Chief Brown’s statement was communicated to a third party. The Complaint
alleges in conclusory fashion that the “statements were communicated publicly and to
third parties.” (Compl. ¶ 37) But there is no specific evidence that the statement was
communicated to anyone other than Mr. Wanco himself, when he was served with the
Statement of Charges. (Def. Facts ¶) 35—36)
therefore not defamatory. It is similar to other statements of opinion that have
been found not actionable under New Jersey defamation law, such as a
statement that a person “was dishonest and lacking in integrity,” Gulrajaney u.
Petricha, 381 N.J. Super. 241, 885 A.2d 496, 503—504 (N.J. Super. Ct. App.
Div. 2005), or that someone “was a bad guy” and that his “word was not good,”
Beverly Hills Motoring, Inc. v. Morici, No. CIV. 14-756 FSK, 2015 WL 248352, at
*5 (D.N.J. Jan. 20, 2015). We might consider that the statement, although
expressed as an opinion, contained an implied assertion of fact: that Wanco
had behaved inappropriately in relation to a senior citizen. But clearly, and
admittedly, he had; he admitted as much under oath when he pled guilty.
Second, for similar reasons to those expressed with regard to the actual
malice standard and the moral turpitude charge, there is no evidence that
Chief Brown made the statement about his discomfort with Wanco dealing with
senior citizens with actual malice.
In short, Wanco failed to comply with the procedures of the NJTCA, but
even if he had, his Count 3 claim of defamation would not survive summary
Abuse of Process (Count 7)
A claim of abuse of process alleges “the misuse or misapplication of the
legal procedure in a manner not contemplated by law.” Simone v. Golden
Nugget Hotel and Casino, 844 F.2d 1031, 1036 (3d Cir. 1988). To prove abuse
of process, the plaintiff must establish both “an ulterior motive and some
further act after the issuance of process representing the perversion of the
legitimate use of the process.” Id. at 1036—37 (3d Cir. 1988) (internal citations
Here, Wanco fails to identify any such ulterior motive.’6 He alleges that
“defendants conspired to abuse the process utilized to remove the plaintiff from
“Process” usually refers to a court’s processes. I assume without deciding that
“process” for purposes of the abuse of process tort may encompass the Fire
Department’s disciplinary process.
his position as a Firefighter First Class.” (Compl.
54) The claim undoes itself:
the legitimate purpose of the process that Defendants used was to take
disciplinary action, including removal where appropriate. This was not a
perversion of the process, but rather its legitimate and intended purpose.’7
Here, too, Wanco failed to comply with the procedures of the NJTCA, but
even if he had, his Count 7 abuse of process claim would not survive summary
For the reasons set forth above, Defendants’ motion for summary
judgment is GRANTED as to all counts. An appropriate order follows.
Dated: July 24, 2017
HON. KEVIN MCNULTY,
To the extent that Wanco is alleging that the procedures themselves were
flawed, I incorporate the discussion of his due process claims in Section IV.3, supra.
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