Gibson v. Super., Nj Dept., Law and Public Safety, No. 04-1847.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
Writing for the CourtVan Antwerpen
Citation411 F.3d 427
PartiesEmory E. GIBSON, Jr. Appellant v. SUPERINTENDENT OF NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF LAW AND PUBLIC SAFETY-DIVISION OF STATE POLICE; New Jersey Turnpike Authority; Sean Reilly; J.W. Pennypacker; Peter Verniero; Ronald Susswein; John Fahy; George Rover; John Does 1-10; Treasurer State of New Jersey
Decision Date14 June 2005
Docket NumberNo. 04-1847.
411 F.3d 427
Emory E. GIBSON, Jr. Appellant
v.
SUPERINTENDENT OF NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF LAW AND PUBLIC SAFETY-DIVISION OF STATE POLICE; New Jersey Turnpike Authority; Sean Reilly; J.W. Pennypacker; Peter Verniero; Ronald Susswein; John Fahy; George Rover; John Does 1-10; Treasurer State of New Jersey
No. 04-1847.
United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit.
Argued February 11, 2005.
Filed: June 14, 2005.

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David Rudovsky (Argued), Kairys, Rudovsky, Epstein & Messing, Philadelphia, PA, William H. Buckman, Moorestown, NJ, Counsel for Appellant.

James H. Martin (Argued), Peter C. Harvey, Attorney General of New Jersey, Patrick DeAlmeida, Assistant Attorney General — Of Counsel, Robert P. Shane, Deputy Attorney General, Richard J. Hughes Justice Complex, Trenton, NJ, Counsel for Appellees Verniero, Susswein, Fahy, Rover, Pennypacker and Reilly.

John F. Hipp, Spadoro & Hilson, Woodbridge, NJ, Counsel for Appellee New Jersey Turnpike.

Before: BARRY, FUENTES, and VAN ANTWERPEN, Circuit Judges.

Judge VAN ANTWERPEN writes the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II, III.B-D, and IV.

FUENTES, Circuit Judge, with whom BARRY, Circuit Judge, joins, writes the opinion of the Court with respect to Part III.A, from which Judge VAN ANTWERPEN dissents.

OPINION1

VAN ANTWERPEN, Circuit Judge.


Emory Gibson, Jr. appeals from two orders of the District Court which effectively dismissed his § 1983 action in its entirety. According to Gibson, in 1992 he was traveling on the New Jersey Turnpike when he was unlawfully stopped, searched and arrested by two New Jersey State Police Troopers. Gibson alleges that the stop

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and search were part of a pattern of racially discriminatory law enforcement practices undertaken by the New Jersey State Police. Ten years after his initial stop and eight years after his conviction, Gibson was released from prison after newly obtained evidence suggested that his initial stop was tainted by racial animus. He subsequently brought this action against the New Jersey State Police ("NJSP") Superintendent;2 J.W. Pennypacker and Sean Reilly,3 the individual NJSP Troopers who originally arrested him; former New Jersey Attorney General Peter Verniero; former Deputy Attorneys General Ronald Susswein, John Fahy, and George Rover;4 the New Jersey Turnpike Authority; the Treasurer of New Jersey; and several unnamed "John Doe" individuals who allegedly aided in the illegal search or the suppression of evidence.

In federal claims brought under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985, Gibson alleged that the defendants violated his right of access to the courts, his Fourth Amendment right to freedom from illegal search and seizure, and his Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection under the law. He also alleges that the defendants conspired to violate these rights and conspired against him on account of his race. Additionally, Gibson brought several claims under state law. The District Court dismissed all of the claims as set forth below.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The following facts are taken from Gibson's Complaint. Because we are reviewing the grant of a motion to dismiss, we take these allegations as true and view them in a light most favorable to the appellant. Christopher v. Harbury, 536 U.S. 403, 406, 122 S.Ct. 2179, 153 L.Ed.2d 413 (2002).

Emory Gibson, Jr. is an African-American male. On October 28, 1992, Gibson was sitting in the rear seat of a vehicle occupied by two other African-American men, traveling southbound on the New Jersey Turnpike. At approximately 4:20 a.m., New Jersey State Police Troopers Pennypacker and Reilly pulled their marked NJSP cruiser behind the car in which Gibson was traveling and activated the cruiser's warning lights; the driver promptly pulled over. Without a warrant, the Troopers searched the vehicle and then searched and arrested Gibson. Gibson and the other occupants of the vehicle were charged with various offenses after the Troopers discovered illegal drugs in the car. Gibson alleges that the Troopers stopped the car and conducted the search without probable cause.

Gibson was tried on April 20 and 21, 1994. He was found guilty on two counts of drug-related offenses and sentenced to fifty years in prison. At trial, the prosecution relied on the testimony of Troopers Pennypacker and Reilly, as well as Dennis Tully, who testified as an expert on drug interdiction and valuation. According to Gibson, impeachment evidence existed at that time which showed that Trooper Tully had a "monthly African American arrest rate on the Turnpike." (Appellant App. at A-93.)

In 1996, the Superior Court of New Jersey in State v. Soto, 324 N.J.Super. 66, 734 A.2d 350, 360 (Law Div.1996), determined

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that NJSP Troopers were racially profiling drivers on the New Jersey Turnpike and targeting African-Americans for stops. Citing Soto, Gibson filed a petition for post-conviction relief and requested discovery on February 18, 1999. On February 8, 2000, the Superior Court, Law Division, denied the request for post-conviction relief, in part because Gibson did not allege sufficient evidence of racial profiling or the illegality of his stop and arrest.

Later, on January 29, 2002, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, reversed Gibson's conviction because exculpatory material uncovered in November 2000 tended to show that he was illegally stopped and arrested. On April 19, 2002, Gibson's Motion to Dismiss and Vacate the Conviction of Plaintiff was granted because there was a colorable basis to believe that Gibson was stopped and arrested as a result of unlawful racial profiling.

On November 14, 2002, Gibson filed a Complaint in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, in which he made six claims. Counts One, Two and Three were brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In Count One, Gibson claimed that the defendants' unconstitutional acts denied him effective access to the courts and resulted in his unconstitutional conviction and imprisonment. In Count Two, he sought injunctive relief from the NJSP Superintendent,5 and in Count Three, he alleged that the defendants "conspired to violate Plaintiff's civil rights, namely the rights to meaningful access to the courts and the right to be free from unconstitutional conviction and imprisonment." (Appellant App. at A-103.) In Count Four, Gibson alleged that the defendants were liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1985 for conspiring "to violate the civil rights of Plaintiff herein based on his race." (Id. at A-103 to A-104.) Counts Five and Seven (there was no Count Six) were state law claims.

Appellees moved to dismiss all of the counts, arguing that they were time-barred, and that several of the defendants were entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity, prosecutorial immunity and qualified immunity. On December 12, 2003, the District Court dismissed as time-barred Gibson's "constitutional claims for selective enforcement and failure to train (as well as any claims that reasonably can be construed to plead violations of the Fourth Amendment and malicious prosecution)." (Appellant App. at A-36.) The District Court also dismissed the claim against the defendant Treasurer of New Jersey and ordered further briefing and argument on the issue of qualified immunity as to the surviving claims. On February 24, 2004, the District Court dismissed the remaining claims. Gibson timely appealed.

Consistent with this opinion and the Judge Fuentes's Opinion, we will reverse, and allow Gibson to proceed with his claims brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in Count One alleging that the Troopers unconstitutionally searched and seized Gibson in violation of the Fourth Amendment, and subjected him to selective enforcement of the laws in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. We will also reinstate the 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985 conspiracy claims in Counts Three and Four, and the state law claims in Counts Five and Seven.

II. JURISDICTION AND STANDARD OF REVIEW

The District Court had subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (2005). This Court has jurisdiction over

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the final order and judgment pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291 (2005). We exercise plenary review over both the District Court's dismissal of a claim on statute of limitations grounds under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) and its grant of qualified immunity. Leveto v. Lapina, 258 F.3d 156, 161 (3d Cir.2001).

III. ANALYSIS

The nature of Gibson's multiple claims in Count One is somewhat difficult to ascertain so we begin by examining the Complaint.6 Count One was brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 which provides a cause of action against a person who, acting under color of state law, deprives another of a constitutional or federal right. Thus, to state a claim under § 1983, Gibson must indicate: (1) of what constitutional or federal right he was deprived, and (2) how he was deprived of that right under color of state law. 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2005); Basista v. Weir, 340 F.2d 74, 79 (3d Cir.1965).

The first step in evaluating a § 1983 claim is to identify the specific constitutional right infringed. Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271, 114 S.Ct. 807, 127 L.Ed.2d 114 (1994) (Rehnquist, C.J., plurality opinion). It appears that in Count One, Gibson's Complaint alleges two main claims of constitutional deprivation: (1) defendants denied Gibson access to the courts by suppressing exculpatory

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information, and (2) defendants violated Gibson's "right to be free from an unconstitutional conviction and imprisonment." (Appellant App. at A-100 to A-101.) The Complaint then alleges a litany of constitutional violations which underlie the main claims. Id. at A-101 to A-102.

The main claim of denial of access to the courts is well recognized and actionable. Christopher, 536 U.S. at 415 n. 12, 122 S.Ct. 2179. However, standing alone...

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214 practice notes
  • Gagliardi v. Fisher, Civil Action No. 06-0095.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. Western District of Pennsylvania
    • March 16, 2007
    ...cause of action" was frustrated. Gibson v. Superintendent of New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety — Division of State Police, 411 F.3d 427, 442 (3d Cir.2005). Plaintiff cannot establish a violation of the Petition Clause. Jordan v. Bellinger, 123 F.Supp.2d 228, 229 (D.Del.2000); R......
  • Munchinski v. Solomon, 2:13cv1280.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Western District of Pennsylvania
    • June 27, 2017
    ...at the times relevant to the instant action.In Gibson v. Superintendent of N.J. Dep't. of Law & Pub. Safety–Division of State Police , 411 F.3d 427, 442 (3d Cir. 2005) the Third Circuit found that, before 1995, police officers were entitled to immunity if they failed to produce exculpatory ......
  • Poventud v. City of N.Y., Docket No. 12-1011-cv
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • January 14, 2014
    ...proceedings. Heck, 512 U.S. at 487 n.7; see also Gibson v. Superintendent of N.J. Dep't of Law & Pub. Safety-Div. of State Police, 411 F.3d 427, 448 (3d Cir. 2005), overruled on other grounds by Dique v. N.J. State Police, 603 F.3dPage 25181, 188 (3d Cir. 2010).III. Other § 1983 Claims, Inc......
  • Poventud v. City of N.Y., No. 12–1011–cv.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • January 16, 2014
    ...Heck, 512 U.S. at 487 n. 7, 114 S.Ct. 2364;see also Gibson v. Superintendent of N.J. Dep't of Law & Pub. Safety–Div. of State Police, 411 F.3d 427, 448 (3d Cir.2005), overruled on other grounds by Dique v. N.J. State Police, 603 F.3d 181, 188 (3d Cir.2010).III. Other § 1983 Claims, Includin......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
214 cases
  • Gagliardi v. Fisher, Civil Action No. 06-0095.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. Western District of Pennsylvania
    • March 16, 2007
    ...cause of action" was frustrated. Gibson v. Superintendent of New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety — Division of State Police, 411 F.3d 427, 442 (3d Cir.2005). Plaintiff cannot establish a violation of the Petition Clause. Jordan v. Bellinger, 123 F.Supp.2d 228, 229 (D.Del.2000); R......
  • Munchinski v. Solomon, 2:13cv1280.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Western District of Pennsylvania
    • June 27, 2017
    ...at the times relevant to the instant action.In Gibson v. Superintendent of N.J. Dep't. of Law & Pub. Safety–Division of State Police , 411 F.3d 427, 442 (3d Cir. 2005) the Third Circuit found that, before 1995, police officers were entitled to immunity if they failed to produce exculpatory ......
  • Poventud v. City of N.Y., Docket No. 12-1011-cv
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • January 14, 2014
    ...proceedings. Heck, 512 U.S. at 487 n.7; see also Gibson v. Superintendent of N.J. Dep't of Law & Pub. Safety-Div. of State Police, 411 F.3d 427, 448 (3d Cir. 2005), overruled on other grounds by Dique v. N.J. State Police, 603 F.3dPage 25181, 188 (3d Cir. 2010).III. Other § 1983 Claims, Inc......
  • Poventud v. City of N.Y., No. 12–1011–cv.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • January 16, 2014
    ...Heck, 512 U.S. at 487 n. 7, 114 S.Ct. 2364;see also Gibson v. Superintendent of N.J. Dep't of Law & Pub. Safety–Div. of State Police, 411 F.3d 427, 448 (3d Cir.2005), overruled on other grounds by Dique v. N.J. State Police, 603 F.3d 181, 188 (3d Cir.2010).III. Other § 1983 Claims, Includin......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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