879 F.3d 504 (3rd Cir. 2018), 16-2171, Karns v. Shanahan

Docket Nº:16-2171, 16-2172
Citation:879 F.3d 504
Opinion Judge:CHAGARES, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:Don KARNS, Appellant v. Kathleen SHANAHAN; Sandra McKeon Crowe; New Jersey Transit; John DOE Supervisors #1-50 Robert Parker, Appellant v. Kathleen Shanahan; Sandra McKeon Crowe; New Jersey Transit; John DOE Supervisors #1-50
Attorney:John M. Bloor, Esq. [ARGUED] Drinker Biddle & Reath, F. Michael Daily, Jr., Esq., Counsel for Appellants Jennifer J. McGruther, Esq. [ARGUED] Stephen R. Tucker, Esq., Benjamin H. Zieman, Esq., Office of Attorney General of New Jersey, Department of Law & Public Safety, Division of Law, Richard J....
Judge Panel:Before: CHAGARES, RESTREPO, and ROTH, Circuit Judges ROTH, Circuit Judge, dissenting.
Case Date:January 11, 2018
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
 
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879 F.3d 504 (3rd Cir. 2018)

Don KARNS, Appellant

v.

Kathleen SHANAHAN; Sandra McKeon Crowe; New Jersey Transit; John DOE Supervisors #1-50 Robert Parker, Appellant

v.

Kathleen Shanahan; Sandra McKeon Crowe; New Jersey Transit; John DOE Supervisors #1-50

Nos. 16-2171, 16-2172

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

January 11, 2018

Argued: January 26, 2017

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Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey (Nos. 3:14-cv-04429 & 3:14-cv-4104), District Judge: Hon. Mary L. Cooper

John M. Bloor, Esq. [ARGUED] Drinker Biddle & Reath, F. Michael Daily, Jr., Esq., Counsel for Appellants

Jennifer J. McGruther, Esq. [ARGUED] Stephen R. Tucker, Esq., Benjamin H. Zieman, Esq., Office of Attorney General of New Jersey, Department of Law & Public Safety, Division of Law, Richard J. Hughes Justice Complex, Counsel for Appellees

Before: CHAGARES, RESTREPO, and ROTH, Circuit Judges

OPINION

CHAGARES, Circuit Judge.

Don Karns and Robert Parker filed civil rights actions against the New Jersey Transit Corporation (" N.J. Transit" ) and N.J. Transit Officers Kathleen Shanahan and Sandra McKeon Crowe in their official and individual capacities, alleging violations of the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Officers Shanahan and Crowe arrested Karns and Parker for defiant trespass and obstruction of justice after Karns and Parker refused to vacate the N.J. Transit train platform on which they were preaching without the required permit. The District Court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment on Eleventh Amendment immunity and qualified immunity grounds. This consolidated appeal followed. For the reasons that follow, we will affirm the District Court’s judgment.

I.

Karns and Parker are evangelical Christian ministers who regularly preach the Christian gospel. At around 6:00 a.m. on June 26, 2012, Karns and Parker were loudly preaching on the railway platform at the Princeton Junction station, which is owned by N.J. Transit. They also carried signs with Bible verses on them. Parker had previously been informed that a permit was required to preach on N.J. Transit property pursuant to N.J. Admin. Code § 16:83-1.1, which provides that persons wishing to engage in non-commercial speech on N.J. Transit property are required to obtain a non-commercial certificate of registration.1 Appendix (" App." ) 118. Karns was apparently unaware of this requirement. App. 244-45. Neither Karns nor Parker applied for or obtained such a permit during the period leading up to the incident giving rise to this lawsuit.

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Officers Shanahan and Crowe are law enforcement officers who are N.J. Transit employees. N.J. Transit maintains a policy that its officers be familiar with and uniformly enforce the permitting regulations, and all N.J. Transit officers were instructed on this policy. App. 136; App. 470-71; App. 858. This policy was communicated in an email dated May 6, 2010 from N.J. Transit Deputy Chief Joseph Kelly. App. 136. The email instructed that in the event a N.J. Transit officer observes an individual engaging in non-commercial speech without a permit, the officer should explain the permitting rules and provide information about the permit application process. App. 136. The email directed that the officer shall take " appropriate enforcement action" if the individual has been made aware of the application process and permit requirement and continues to engage in non-commercial expression. App. 136.

While on patrol on the morning of June 26, 2012, Officers Shanahan and Crowe received a radio dispatch informing them that individuals were preaching loudly on the Princeton Junction station platform. This was not the first incident of loud preaching on N.J. Transit property. Rather, there had been several incidents involving " [c]ommuters complaining of loud preaching at different stations" throughout the N.J. Transit system. App. 470.

In response to the dispatch call, Officers Shanahan and Crowe approached the Princeton Junction station. The officers were able to hear shouting emanating from the platform from as far as the parking lot beside the station. Once on the train platform, Officers Shanahan and Crowe approached Karns and Parker, noticing that Parker’s behavior " was not the normal behavior of a commuter" and that he " was shaking uncontrollably." App. 208. Officer Crowe indicated that she " wasn’t paying attention to what [the plaintiffs] were saying" as she approached them. App. 197. Karns and Parker ceased preaching as the officers approached them. Parker took out his cell phone to record the encounter, but Officer Shanahan requested that he put it away. Parker eventually complied. The officers then asked Karns and Parker whether they had a permit to speak at the station. They responded that they did not. Officer Shanahan informed them that a permit was required, but Parker responded that he had been preaching at the station for years without any form of permit.

The officers then asked Parker to provide identification. Parker produced an expired college identification card. Karns refused to provide any form of identification. Believing that Karns and Parker were interfering with their investigation by failing to produce sufficient identification, the officers then arrested Karns and Parker and charged them each with one count of obstruction under N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:29-1(a) and one count of obstruction under N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:29-1(b). Karns and Parker were also each charged with one count of defiant trespass in violation of N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:18-3(b) on the basis of the officers’ belief that engaging in non-commercial expression on N.J. Transit property without a permit constitutes trespassing.

Karns was ultimately acquitted of all charges. The obstruction of justice charges against Parker were dismissed, but he was convicted of defiant trespass. That charge was ultimately reversed by the New Jersey Superior Court.

On June 26, 2014, Karns and Parker jointly filed a complaint against N.J. Transit and Officers Shanahan and Crowe in their official and individual capacities. The District Court ordered Karns to file an amended complaint and Parker to file a separate complaint. On July 14, 2014,

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Karns and Parker filed individual complaints, each alleging violations of the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments. The actions were consolidated for discovery purposes, and N.J. Transit and the officers moved for summary judgment. On March 31, 2016, the District Court granted summary judgment in favor of all of the defendants and against Karns and Parker.

Karns and Parker filed this timely appeal.

II.

The District Court had jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. We have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291. We exercise plenary review over a grant of summary judgment and apply the same standard as the District Court. Goldenstein v. Repossessors Inc., 815 F.3d 142, 146 (3d Cir. 2016); Beers-Capitol v. Whetzel, 256 F.3d 120, 130 n.6 (3d Cir. 2001). We review de novo the legal grounds underpinning a claim of qualified immunity or sovereign immunity. Halsey v. Pfeiffer, 750 F.3d 273, 287 (3d Cir. 2014); Blanciak v. Allegheny Ludlum Corp., 77 F.3d 690, 694 (3d Cir. 1996).

III.

Karns and Parker first argue that the District Court erred by concluding that N.J. Transit was an " arm of the state" entitled to claim immunity from suit in federal court under the Eleventh Amendment. They relatedly argue that N.J. Transit is liable for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for maintaining unconstitutional policies relating to the permitting scheme. We have considered Karns’s and Parker’s arguments and, for the following reasons, we will affirm the District Court’s judgment.

A.

The Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution provides: " The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State." U.S. Const. amend. XI. The Supreme Court in Hans v. Louisiana, 134 U.S. 1, 10 S.Ct. 504, 33 L.Ed. 842 (1890), " extended the Eleventh Amendment’s reach to suits by in-state plaintiffs, thereby barring all private suits against non-consenting States in federal court." Lombardo v. Pa., Dep’t of Pub. Welfare, 540 F.3d 190, 194 (3d Cir. 2008) (emphasis omitted). Immunity from suit in federal court under the Eleventh Amendment is designed to preserve the delicate and " proper balance between the supremacy of federal law and the separate...

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