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Anela v. City of Wildwood

May 22, 1986

ANTOINETTE CONNIE ANELA, ET AL.
v.
CITY OF WILDWOOD, ET AL., (D.C. CIVIL NO. 83-1094), MAUREEN MCDONNELL COLE, ET AL., V. CITY OF WILDWOOD, ET AL., (D.C. CIVIL NO. 83-2444), ROXANN COX COLE V. CITY OF WILDWOOD, ET AL., (D.C. CIVIL NO. 83-2525), ANTOINETTE CONNIE ANELA, ANGELA DIPIETRO, MAUREEN MCDONNELL, LISA TORTIS COLE, GINA BUCCERI AND ROXANN COX COLE, APPELLANTS



ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY.

Author: Rosenn

Before GIBBONS, BECKER and ROSENN, Circuit Judges.

ROSENN, Circuit Judge.

The six appellants in this case are young women who brought a Civil Rights Act lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1982) against the City of Wildwood, its chief of police, and several employees of that City's police department as a result of their arrest and detention for violating the City's anti-noise ordinance. The arrest occurred at about 11:15 P.M. on July 3, 1981, and the plaintiffs were detained in holding cells in the police station until their hearing at 11:00 the next morning. Their complaint raised a number of federal constitutional claims. The trial court dismissed several counts prior to the trial, and at the close of their case granted the defendants' Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50 motion for a direct verdict. The plaintiffs moved for a new trial, and when that motion was denied, they appealed. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings.

I.

In the summer of 1981, the plaintiffs and four other persons leased a portion of a house in Wildwood. On July 3, 1981, at about 11:15 P.M., three police officers of the City of Wildwood entered the leased premises, placed the six plaintiffs and four others under arrest for loud radio playing, and carted them off to the police station. Nine of the ten persons detained were young females, ranging in ages from 17 to 20 years; they were placed in three cells, three persons to a cell. The one male who has been arrested provided the sum of $200 in cash and was released. He returned later with about $700 in an unsuccessful attempt to obtain the release of the others on bail. The female arrestees, including the plaintiffs, were held in the cells until 11:00 the following morning.

Plaintiffs filed three section 1983 suits in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, which were consolidated by order of the court. They alleged that the length and condition of their confinement violated their fourteenth amendment rights, that the release of the one male arrestee on bail violated their rights to equal protection, and that their arrest without probable cause violated the fourth and fourteenth amendments. They also alleged various pendant state tort claims.

Through a series of summary judgment orders, the court dismissed various claims, including the due process claim based on jail conditions. The court dismissed all claims against the City of Wildwood except for the due process claim based on the length of the plaintiffs' detention. It dismissed this claim as to the individual defendants on the ground that they enjoyed qualified immunity as officials exercising discretionary functions.

Thereafter, the case went to trial on two issues, the due process claim against the City based on the length of detention and the equal protection claim against the individual defendants. When the plaintiffs rested, the City moved under Rule 50 for a directed verdict on the ground that plaintiffs had presented no evidence establishing a "policy and practice" on the part of the City resulting in the violation of plaintiffs' constitutional rights. The individual defendants also moved for a directed verdict on the grounds of insufficient evidence because the plaintiffs had not specifically identified the individual who booked them and locked them up.

Plaintiffs' counsel then moved to reopen plaintiffs' case to permit the introduction of certain exhibits and testimony. The court did not allow the testimony, but admitted three exhibits. Two exhibits were duty rosters showing which employees of the police department were on duty during the two shifts covering the period of incarceration and the third was a bail schedule issued by a judge of the municipal court of the City of Wildwood. The court received the exhibits in evidence and considered them in ruling on the directed verdict motions. The plaintiffs made no offer of proof that any testimony would be proffered which went beyond the facts shown on the exhibits.

On appeal the plaintiffs contend, inter alia, that the City should be liable because they were held overnight on a charge of violating an ordinance instead of being released subject to a summons as provided by New Jersey law. They also assert that because a male who was arrested with them was given the opportunity to post bail and was released immediately, their rights to equal protection under the fourteenth amendment were infringed. As to their fourth amendment count alleging their arrest without probable cause, they claim that the district court erred in ruling that their guilty pleas in municipal court to a violation of the city ordinance collaterally estopped them from raising the issue. Finally, the plaintiffs contend that the district court erred in holding that the contentions of the holding cells in which the plaintiffs were confined did not violate their personal liberty rights protected by the fourteenth amendment.*fn1

II.

We first turn to the issue of detention. Wildwood attempted to justify the detention of the plaintiffs on the basis of a bail policy statement prepared by the Judge of the Municipal Court of Woodbridge Township. The trial court ruled that the Judge of the Municipal Court, in judicially adopting a bail policy, acted independently of the township's governing body. See Kagan v. Caroselli, 30 N.J. 371, 377, 153 A.2d 17 (1959). In rejecting plaintiffs' motion for reconsidering of the order denying a new trial, the district court held that the plaintiffs had not proven that the allegedly illegal bail policy was one emanating from the City. The court concluded that the policy from the City. The court concluded that the policy was not the City's but was the State's "per the Municipal Court Judge."

In Monell v. New York City, Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 56 L. Ed. 2d 611, 98 S. Ct. 2018 (1978), the Supreme Court stated that a municipality cannot be held liable " solely because it employs a tortfeasor -- or, in other words, a municipality cannot be held liable under § 1983 on a respondeat superior theory." Id. at 691 (emphasis in original). Instead, the Court held, "it is when execution if a government's policy or custom . . . inflicts the injury that the Government as an entity is responsible under § 1983." Id. at 694. The plaintiffs were therefore required to establish either (1) the existence of an officially promulgated ...


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