SANTINI v. FUENTES et al
OPINION filed. Signed by Judge Brian R. Martinotti on 7/27/2017. (mps)
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
BRYAN M. SANTINI,
COLONEL JOSEPH R. FUENTES, et al.,
Civil Action No. 11-639 (BRM)
MARTINOTTI, DISTRICT JUDGE
Before this Court is Defendants State of New Jersey (the “State”), Colonel Joseph R.
Fuentes (“Fuentes”), Trooper J.L. Fuhrmann (“Fuhrmann”), and Trooper R.H. Sickles’
(“Sickles”) 1 (collectively, “Defendants”) Second Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 96.)
Plaintiff Bryan M. Santini (“Plaintiff”) opposes the motion. (ECF No. 100.) Pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 78(b), the Court did not hear oral argument. For the reasons set forth
below, Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.
The Third Circuit in its vacation of this Court’s grant of Defendants’ first summary
judgment motion, Santini v. Fuentes, 795 F.3d 410 (3d Cir. 2015), summarized the essential facts
of the case, which were drawn from Plaintiff’s own statements:
This appeal arises from an altercation between Santini and several
members of the New Jersey State Police that took place on February
3, 2009. On that day, Santini was working at his family’s dairy farm
in Harmony Township, Warren County, New Jersey, where he
Fuhrmann and Sickles are referred to collectively as the “Troopers.”
milked cows in the farm’s milk house. Between 5:00 and 5:30 pm
that evening, a fight broke out in the farm’s milk house between two
women—Tiffany Drake and Crystal Knighton. Santini witnessed
the fight. There were approximately ten other witnesses to the fight.
One of those witnesses called the police to report the incident.
Shortly thereafter, police officers from Greenwich
Township, Lopatcong Township, and the state police arrived at the
Santini family farm. Santini estimates that approximately twenty
officers were present; three to five of those officers were from the
state police. By the time the police arrived, the fight between Drake
and Knighton had ended. Ms. Drake told the police that Santini had
recorded the fight on his cell phone. Santini—standing outside of
the milk house—then spoke with an officer from Greenwich
Township to describe what he had witnessed.
During that conversation, an officer from the state police, 
Fuhrmann, called Santini over. As Santini began to describe what
he had witnessed to Fuhrmann, the Trooper yelled at Santini to take
his hands out of his pockets. Santini maintains that he complied and
explained that his hands were cold because he had been working in
water all day milking cows. Fuhrmann responded: “I don't care.
Keep them where I [can] see them.” Santini continued his story;
however, after Santini’s hands went back in [his] pockets, Fuhrmann
again told Santini to keep his hands where the Trooper could see
them. Santini maintains that he again immediately complied and
apologized, saying: “I’m sorry, I only have my cell phone and my
Santini continued his story. However, while he was
speaking, he pulled his hands into the sleeves of his sweatshirt.
Santini maintains that he pulled his hands into his sleeves on instinct
alone because his hands were cold. At that point, Fuhrmann yelled
at Santini about his hands for the fourth time. In response, Santini
told Fuhrmann that he was going to return to work because he had
already told the other officers his story. Santini then began to walk
back to the milk house. At that point, Fuhrmann said “[c]ome here”
and grabbed Santini’s right wrist. The two men fell to the ground,
where Santini landed on his side and then rolled onto his stomach.
As Santini struggled to return to his feet, one officer—who Santini
believes was Fuhrmann—jumped on top of Santini and told him to
put his hands behind his back because he was under arrest.
As that officer spoke, other officers were on top of Santini,
punching him and beating him with nightsticks. At the time,
Santini’s hands were pinned beneath his body. While Santini was
facedown, the officers surrounding him instructed Santini to stop
resisting. Santini understood that their instruction meant for him to
remove his hands from beneath his stomach. In his deposition,
Santini states that he was unable to remove his arms because of the
weight of the officers on top of him. However, in Santini’s plea
colloquy, he admitted that he resisted arrest.
An officer then sprayed Santini with pepper spray. Santini
states that he was sprayed for thirty seconds to one minute and that
two bottles of spray were used. After the pepper spray was used, the
officers were no longer on top of Santini, he was able to free his
arms, and he was subsequently handcuffed. After handcuffing
Santini, the officers ceased punching, kicking, hitting with batons,
and pepper spraying him. Santini was then taken to Warren County
Jail. There, Santini was treated with Tylenol and eye drops. He
maintains that he had “marks everywhere” after the incident.
However, his medical records from the incident reveal no permanent
or lasting injuries.
795 F.3d at 413-14 (citations and footnotes omitted).
On February 3, 2011, Plaintiff filed a Complaint asserting six claims against Fuentes,
Fuhrmann, and Sickles 2 in their individual and official capacities under both Federal and State law
alleging, among other things, Defendants used excessive force in effectuating an arrest of Plaintiff.
(ECF No. 1.) On January 11, 2013, Defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing: Plaintiff’s
claims against the State and the Troopers in their official capacities were barred by the Eleventh
Amendment; the Troopers were not “persons” for purposes of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985;
Plaintiff could not prove the requisite elements necessary to sustain his claims for malicious
prosecution, false arrest, and false imprisonment; Plaintiff could not maintain a § 1983 claim
against the State or Fuentes on the theory of respondeat superior; and the Troopers were entitled
The State of New Jersey was also a named Defendant in Plaintiff’s Complaint and was granted
summary judgment by this Court (ECF No. 60), but was not included in Plaintiff’s reconsideration
motion (ECF No. 61) or in the Third Circuit’s opinion partially reversing the grant of summary
judgment. See Santini, 795 F.3d at 410. Accordingly, the Court will address only the excessive
force claim against those individual Defendants.
to qualified immunity. (ECF No. 41.) On September 18, 2013, the Court granted the motion for
summary judgment. 3 (ECF No. 60.) On October 2, 2013, Plaintiff filed a motion for
reconsideration, asking the Court to reconsider its grant of summary judgment to Fuhrmann and
Sickles in their individual capacities for the first, second, and third counts of the Complaint. (ECF
No. 61.) On May 6, 2014, the Court denied Plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration. (ECF Nos. 63
On June 23, 2015, Plaintiff appealed the Court’s grant of summary judgment regarding the
Troopers in their individual capacities, and the Court’s denial of his motion for reconsideration.
(ECF No. 61.) On August 4, 2015, the Third Circuit reversed the Court’s grant of summary
judgment as to Fuhrmann and Sickles in their individual capacities and its denial of Plaintiff’s
motion for reconsideration of that decision. Santini, 795 F.3d at 420.
The Third Circuit’s holding was narrow, limited to this Court’s grant of summary judgment
on the question of whether the Troopers violated Plaintiff’s constitutional rights through the use
of excessive force. Id. at 419. The Third Circuit analyzed whether the Troopers were entitled to
qualified immunity under the Supreme Court’s two-part test promulgated in Saucier v. Katz, 533
U.S. 194, 201 (2001). The first part of the Saucier test requires a court to consider “whether the
facts—taken in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party—show that a government official
violated a constitutional right.” Id. at 417 (citing Saucier, 533 U.S. at 201). If the court finds a
government official did violate a constitutional right, the court then “ask[s] whether that right was
clearly established at the time of the official’s actions.” Id. The Third Circuit reversed this Court’s
grant of summary judgment to the Troopers only on the first part of the Saucier test, finding
The motion was decided by the Honorable Joel L. Pisano, U.S.D.J. On August 8, 2016, the case
was transferred to the undersigned. (ECF No. 87.)
“material factual disputes exist as to whether Santini’s constitutional rights were violated.” Id. at
420. Specifically, the Third Circuit found a reasonable jury could find the Troopers used excessive
force in light of the following facts taken in the light most favorable to Plaintiff: (1) Plaintiff was
not a suspect at the time law enforcement arrived at the scene; (2) he initially complied with
Fuhrmann’s requests to keep his hands visible, though he admits he did not obey Fuhrmann
completely and eventually balled his hands in his sleeves; (3) Plaintiff told Fuhrmann the object
in his pocket was his cell phone. Id. at 419-20 (citing Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 395-96
(1989)). The conduct a reasonable jury could find constituted excessive force was that Plaintiff
“was grabbed, tackled, punched, kicked, and pepper sprayed.” Id. at 420. The court remanded the
case to this Court without evaluating the second part of the Saucier test. Id.
On November 25, 2016, Defendants filed the Second Motion for Summary Judgment,
arguing the Troopers are entitled to qualified immunity, because, even if they violated Santini’s
constitutional rights, those rights were not clearly established at the time. (ECF No. at 6-12.)
Defendants also contend Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994) bars Plaintiff’s claim for
excessive force, because a finding that the Troopers used excessive force would undermine his
guilty plea to resisting arrest. (ECF No. 107 at 14.)
Plaintiff interprets the Third Circuit’s decision as reversing this Court’s grant of summary
judgment in its entirety and argues the case must proceed to trial. (ECF No. 100 at 8-9.) Plaintiff
alternatively argues the Troopers are not entitled to qualified immunity, as Plaintiff’s constitutional
rights were clearly established at the time of the incident. (Id. at 10.) Finally, Plaintiff argues three
of his claims remain: (1) the excessive force claim against the Troopers in their individual
capacities; (2) the unreasonable seizure claim against the Troopers in their individual capacities;
and (3) the false arrest/false imprisonment claim against the Troopers in their individual capacities.
(Id. at 2.)
Summary judgment is appropriate “if 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.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A factual dispute is genuine only if there is “a sufficient evidentiary
basis on which a reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party,” and it is material only if it
has the ability to “affect the outcome of the suit under governing law.” Kaucher v. Cty. of Bucks,
455 F.3d 418, 423 (3d Cir. 2006); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986). Disputes over irrelevant or unnecessary facts will not preclude a grant of summary
judgment. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. “In considering a motion for summary judgment, a district
court may not make credibility determinations or engage in any weighing of the evidence; instead,
the non-moving 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) (quoting Anderson,
477 U.S. at 255)); see also Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587,
(1986); Curley v. Klem, 298 F.3d 271, 276-77 (3d Cir. 2002).
The party moving for summary judgment has the initial burden of showing the basis for its
motion. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). “If the moving party will bear the
burden of persuasion at trial, that party must support its motion with credible evidence . . . that
would entitle it to a directed verdict if not controverted at trial.” Id. at 331. On the other hand, if
the burden of persuasion at trial would be on the nonmoving party, the party moving for summary
judgment may satisfy Rule 56’s burden of production by either (1) “submit[ting] affirmative
evidence that negates an essential element of the nonmoving party’s claim” or (2) demonstrating
“that the nonmoving party’s evidence is insufficient to establish an essential element of the
nonmoving party’s claim.” Id. Once the movant adequately supports its motion pursuant to Rule
56(c), the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to “go beyond the pleadings and by her own
affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate
specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 324; see also Matsushita, 475
U.S. at 586; Ridgewood Bd. of Ed. v. Stokley, 172 F.3d 238, 252 (3d Cir. 1999). In deciding the
merits of a party’s motion for summary judgment, the court’s role is not to evaluate the evidence
and decide the truth of the matter, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. Credibility determinations are the province of the factfinder. Big Apple
BMW, Inc. v. BMW of N. Am., Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1363 (3d Cir. 1992).
There can be “no genuine issue as to any material fact,” however, if a party fails “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.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23. “[A] complete
failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party’s case necessarily renders
all other facts immaterial.” Id. at 323; Katz v. Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co., 972 F.2d 53, 55 (3d Cir.
A. The Scope of this Motion
As a preliminary matter, this Court interprets the Third Circuit’s mandate to require only
one issue to be decided: whether, pursuant to the second part of the Saucier test, any right the
Troopers allegedly violated was clearly established at the time of the incident. See Santini, 795
F.3d at 417 (citing Saucier, 533 U.S. at 201). The Third Circuit found this Court “did not proceed
to the second Saucier step,” id. at 418 (citation omitted), because it erred when it did not find, as
the Third Circuit did, “material factual disputes exist as to whether Santini’s constitutional rights
were violated,” id. at 420. The Third Circuit’s decision was clear and narrowly tailored:
[A] reasonable factfinder could find that Santini’s constitutional
rights were violated. Therefore, the District Court’s grant of
summary judgment on that issue was inappropriate. We accordingly
vacate in part the court’s decisions dated September 18, 2013
[granting summary judgment] and May 6, 2014 [denying Plaintiff’s
motion for reconsideration] and remand them for further
proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Id. at 419 (emphasis added). The Third Circuit reiterated:
[M]aterial factual disputes exist as to whether Santini’s
constitutional rights were violated. The existence of those disputes
compels us to find that the District Court’s grant of summary
judgment was inappropriate, as was its denial of Santini’s motion to
reconsider that decision. . . We accordingly vacate in part the
decisions of the District Court and remand this case for further
proceedings consistent with this Opinion.
Id. at 420 (citations omitted) (emphasis added).
Plaintiff concedes the only Defendants against whom he has any remaining claims are the
Troopers in their individual capacities. (ECF No. 100 at 2.) Plaintiff argues he has three bases for
his claims against the Troopers in their individual capacities: (1) excessive force; (2) unreasonable
search and seizure; and (3) false arrest/false imprisonment. With the exception of excessive force,
the Third Circuit did not address these issues. As a result, this Court’s grant of summary judgment
and denial of Plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration stand as they apply to every ground for a claim
of violation under the Constitution pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count One) other than excessive
force. 4 The Third Circuit’s decision had no effect on this Court’s grant of summary judgment to
Plaintiffs’ remaining claims are state-law claims over which this Court declined to exercise
supplemental jurisdiction and which were not a subject of the Third Circuit’s review. Santini, 795
F.3d at 421.
the Troopers in their individual capacities on Plaintiff’s claim he was subjected to an unreasonable
seizure under the Fourth Amendment, his claim he was denied his rights to due process under the
Fifth Amendment, and his claim for deprivation of his liberty and property under the Fourteenth
Amendment. This Court’s only task on this motion is to analyze under the second part of the
Saucier test whether the Troopers are entitled to qualified immunity from Plaintiff’s claim for
excessive force. See Santini, 795 F.3d at 418.
B. Qualified Immunity
To determine whether a public official is entitled to qualified immunity, courts first
determine whether the official violated a constitutional right, and then ask whether the right was
clearly established at the time of the violation. Santini, 795 F.3d at 417 (citing Saucier, 533 U.S.
at 201). As the Third Circuit found a reasonable jury could find Plaintiff’s constitutional rights
were violated, id. at 420, this Court proceeds to the second step of the Saucier test. This Court
must define “the right at issue” and determine if that right was clearly established at the time of
the incident. See id. at 417 (citing Saucier, 533 U.S. at 201); Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223,
232 (2009). The right at issue is clearly established when “it would be clear to a reasonable officer
that his conduct was unlawful in the situation he confronted.” Santini, 795 F.3d at 417 (citing
Saucier, 533 U.S. at 202). “A clearly established right is one that is ‘sufficiently clear that every
reasonable official would have understood that what he is doing violates that right.’” Mullenix v.
Luna, 136 S. Ct. 305, 308 (2015) (quoting Reichle v. Howards, 132 S. Ct. 2088, 2090 (2012)). The
Supreme Court has stated “that reasonable mistakes can be made as to the legal constraints on
particular police conduct.” Saucier, 533 U.S. at 205. Qualified immunity affords government
officials considerable protection from liability, as it “protects all but the plainly incompetent or
those who knowingly violate the law.” Id. (quoting Malley v. Briggs, 475 U.S. 335, 341 (1986)).
A plaintiff seeking to overcome qualified immunity need not cite “a case directly on point, but
existing precedent must have placed the statutory or constitutional question beyond debate.”
Ashcroft v. al-Kidd, 563 U.S. 731, 741 (2011). The Supreme Court has “repeatedly told courts . . .
not to define clearly established law at a high level of generality.” Mullenix, 136 S. Ct. at 308
(quoting al-Kidd, 563 U.S. at 742). Instead, a court is “required to frame the right at issue in a
more particularized . . . sense.” Spady v. Bethlehem Area Sch. Dist., 800 F.3d 633, 638 (3d Cir.
2015) (quoting Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 639 (1987)).
Here, viewing the facts in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, Marino, 358 F.3d at 247,
the right at issue is whether Plaintiff had a right to be free from the use of force, including the use
of pepper spray and strikes with nightsticks, as a non-suspect witness who walked away from an
investigatory discussion, and who admitted he (1) unintentionally did not comply with an officer’s
request to keep his hands visible, and (2) resisted arrest. See Santini, 795 F.3d at 413-14. The Court
finds this right was not clearly established at the time of the incident, particularly in light of
Plaintiff’s admission in his plea colloquy that he resisted arrest. See id. at 414; ECF No. 41-3 at
7:18-9:12. As the Third Circuit found, a jury could conclude the Troopers’ conduct constituted
excessive force. Id. at 420. However, the Troopers’ use of force on a party who admitted he was
resisting arrest does not support a finding they were “plainly incompetent” or that they “knowingly
violated the law.” Mullenix, 136 S. Ct. at 308 (quoting Malley, 475 U.S. at 341). Therefore, the
Court finds the Troopers are entitled to qualified immunity.
Plaintiff argues he does not need to define the right at issue with specificity, because “in
some cases ‘a general constitutional rule already identified in the decisional law may apply with
obvious clarity to the specific conduct in question, even though the very action in question has
[not] been previously been held unlawful.’” (ECF No. 100 at 11 (quoting Hope v. Pelzer, 536 U.S.
730, 741 (2002).) Plaintiff’s argument is unpersuasive. Hope involved claims by an inmate who
was forced to remove his shirt and left chained to a fence in the sun for seven hours with no
bathroom breaks and given water once or twice. 536 U.S. at 734. The defendant prison guards also
taunted him about his thirst. Id. at 735. While the Third Circuit held the facts of this case, taken in
the light most favorable to Plaintiff, could support of finding of excessive force, Plaintiff’s
allegations do not rise to the level of the hours-long mistreatment and mockery of the plaintiff in
Hope, which the Supreme Court determined were so egregious that any official would know they
were against the law.
To the extent Plaintiff identifies the right at issue, he does not do so with the required
specificity. See Estep v. Mackey, 639 F. App’x. 870, 873 (3d Cir. 2016) (citing Mullenix, 136 S.
Ct. at 309). Plaintiff articulates the right at issue as the right to be free from arrest without probable
cause or reasonable suspicion. (ECF No. 100 at 26.) Plaintiff disregards Supreme Court and Third
Circuit precedent that demands district courts define the right at issue in qualified immunity cases
with specificity and a consideration of the facts of each case. Mullenix 136 S. Ct. at 309; Estep,
639 F. App’x. at 873. The Third Circuit has held a court must not define a plaintiff’s right too
generally when deciding whether qualified immunity applies in an excessive force case. Estep,
639 F. App’x. at 873 (citing Mullenix, 136 S. Ct. at 309). The court remanded an excessive force
case after finding the district court had defined a plaintiff’s right too generally as “the Fourth
Amendment right to be free from the excessive use of force.” Id. (citing Mullenix, 136 S. Ct. at
309). Plaintiff’s articulation of the right at issue is precisely the generalized statement the Third
Circuit has rejected.
Plaintiff has not cited any authority that compels this Court to find the right at issue was
clearly established in light of the particular facts of this case. See al-Kidd, 563 U.S. at 741. Plaintiff
cites two cases with facts similar to those in this case: United States v. Burton, 228 F.3d 524 (4th
Cir. 2000), and United States v. Davis, 94 F.3d 1465 (10th Cir. 1996). Plaintiff argues these cases
demonstrate the Troopers should have been aware they were violating the law. In Burton, four
police officers approached Kenneth Burton outside a convenience store and asked him for
identification several times, but he did not respond. 228 F.3d at 526. The officers asked Burton to
remove his hand from his pocket, but he also did not respond to that request. Id. One of the officers
moved behind Burton, reached into his pocket, and grabbed his hand. Id. The officer and Burton
fell to the ground, and a struggle ensued during which Burton drew a handgun and attempted to
shoot the officer. Id. The officers subdued Burton, and he was indicted for unlawful possession of
a firearm by a felon. Id. The Fourth Circuit ruled the district court erred in denying Burton’s motion
to suppress evidence of the handgun, because the officer did not have either probable cause or
reasonable suspicion to search Burton’s pocket based on his refusal to answer questions. Id. at 528.
Plaintiff analogizes the unlawful search of Burton to Fuhrmann’s actions when he grabbed
Plaintiff’s arm after Plaintiff did not keep his hands in sight. (ECF No. 100 at 19.)
In Davis, the Tenth Circuit reversed the district court’s denial of a motion to suppress
evidence of a handgun obtained from a suspect who ignored police officers’ requests to remove
his hands from his pockets. 94 F.3d at 1467. The officers, acting on information that Davis was
selling narcotics, approached him and told him to remove his hands from his pockets. Id. David
did not comply and walked away. Id. Two officers grabbed Davis’s arms and put him in a police
car. Id. While in the car, Davis removed a gun from his pocket and threw it in the back seat. Id.
The Tenth Circuit held the circumstances that preceded the arrest, including the fact that Davis
had his hands in his pockets, did not justify the officers’ investigative detention. Id. at 1469.
While Burton and Davis have some factual resemblance to this case, particularly the
officers’ concern with the plaintiffs’ hands in their pockets, those cases addressed the
permissibility of searches, not excessive force. The courts in those cases did not evaluate whether
the officers applied excessive force pursuant to the factors the Supreme Court established in
Graham, as the Third Circuit did in reviewing this case. Santini, 795 F.3d at 417 (citing Graham,
490 U.S. at 395). Courts apply very different analyses in unlawful search cases and excessive force
cases. In the former, courts must determine, as the Burton and Davis, whether the officer who
conducted the search had “reasonable suspicion supported by articulable facts that criminal activity
‘may be afoot.’” Burton, 228 F.3d at 527 (quoting United States v. Sokolow, 490 U.S. 1, 7 (1989));
see also, Davis, 94 F.3d at 1468 (citing Sokolow, 490 U.S. at 7). In excessive force cases, courts
weigh “(1) the severity of the crime at issue, (2) whether the suspect poses an imminent threat to
the safety of the police or others in the vicinity, and (3) whether the suspect attempts to resist arrest
or flee the scene.” Santini, 795 F.3d at 417 (citing Graham, 490 U.S. at 395). Since Burton and
Davis did not address the issue of excessive force, those cases do not represent “existing precedent
[that] placed the statutory or constitutional question beyond debate” in this case. al-Kidd, 563 U.S.
The Heck Doctrine
Even if the Court were to find the Troopers were not entitled to qualified immunity,
Plaintiff’s excessive force claim would be barred pursuant to the Heck doctrine. See Heck, 512
U.S. at 477. Under Heck, a § 1983 plaintiff cannot “recover damages for. . . harm caused by actions
whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid” or “imply that the conviction
was wrongful” unless the plaintiff can show the conviction has been reversed, expunged, or
otherwise made invalid. 512 U.S. at 486-87 & n.6. This Court has held a plaintiff cannot assert a
civil claim for excessive force after a conviction for resisting arrest. Panarello v. City of Vineland,
160 F. Supp. 3d 734, 756-58 (D.N.J. 2016).
Here, Plaintiff pled guilty to resisting arrest. Santini, 795 F.3d at 419; ECF No. 41-3 at
7:18-9:12. A finding that the Troopers violated Plaintiff’s constitutional rights through excessive
force would render his plea invalid. See Heck, 512 U.S. at 486-87; Panarello, 160 F. Supp. 3d at
756-58. This Court has recognized the Superior Court, Appellate Division of New Jersey has
expressly barred plaintiffs who have pled guilty to resisting arrest from asserting a civil claim for
excessive force. Panarello, 160 F. Supp. 3d at 757 (citing Bustamante v. Borough of Paramus,
413 N.J. Super. 276, 296 (App. Div. 2010) (“By pleading guilty . . . plaintiff forfeited any claim
that defendants used excessive force in effecting his arrest.”) The Appellate Division reasoned “a
favorable outcome in the civil action would be inconsistent with the admissions [plaintiff] made
by pleading guilty.” Bustamante, 413 N.J. Super. at 295. Here, Plaintiff’s guilty plea likewise
precludes his claim for excessive force, because a favorable outcome on that claim would be
inconsistent with his plea.
Therefore, the Troopers’ Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.
State Law Claims
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3), “district courts may decline to exercise [supplemental]
jurisdiction over a claim under subsection (a) if – [ ] the district court has dismissed all claims over
which it has original jurisdiction[.]” Given that this Court has granted Defendants’ Motion for
Summary Judgment on all federal claims, the only remaining causes of action in Plaintiff’s
Complaint are: (1) claims under the New Jersey state constitution; (2) N.J.S.A. 10:6-2; (3) false
arrest, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution under state law; and (4) the New Jersey Tort
Claims Act, N.J.S.A. 59:1-1 et seq. Accordingly, this Court declines to exercise supplemental
jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s remaining state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3), as those
claims over which the Court had original jurisdiction have been dismissed with prejudice.
For the foregoing reasons, Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment is hereby
GRANTED, with prejudice, on Plaintiff’s federal claims. This Court declines to exercise
supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s remaining state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1367(c)(3). An appropriate Order will follow.
Date: July 27, 2017
/s/ Brian R. Martinotti
HON. BRIAN R. MARTINOTTI
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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