John C. Gillespie Potential Class Action Lawsuit Dismissed by Federal Court
Marlton, NJ, November 1, 2009 - A federal judge dismissed a prospective class action lawsuit, Wednesday, October 28, 2009, against the Township of Maple Shade, NJ, seeking damages and challenging various municipal "public intoxication ordinances." It also sought class action certification for hundreds, and possibly thousands of prospective plaintiffs, against approximately 270 municipalities throughout the State of New Jersey with similar ordinances.
According to attorney John C. Gillespie, shareholder with the regional law firm Parker McCay, who represented Maple Shade Township, along with approximately 96 other municipalities, "This is a huge win for public entities throughout the State of New Jersey, as well as for taxpayers, who now will not be saddled with having to pay attorneys to defend this case, and will also avoid the risks of the exorbitant fees generally awarded to successful plaintiffs in class action suits in this state."
Joseph W. McMullen was arrested in early 2008 in Maple Shade and charged with public intoxication, but his case was dismissed. Also arrested in early 2008 for public intoxication was Christopher Obchinetz, who was found guilty and paid a fine. Each then filed federal lawsuits, which were eventually consolidated, seeking damages for false arrest and illegal conviction, and asking to include all individuals in New Jersey who were similarly charged under the same ordinances, over the years.
It's argued that in 1977, New Jersey adopted the "Alcohol Treatment and Rehabilitation Act," that made such ordinances illegal. The plaintiffs argued that an arrest brought under an illegal ordinance is a false arrest, and any conviction under such an ordinance is an illegal conviction. They sought recovery of all fines and penalties paid, legal fees incurred in the municipal court defense, as well as counsel fees for pursuing the Civil Rights claim.
Gillespie said the Court granted his motion to dismiss the lawsuit, saying there was no federal constitutional claim involved, and that another state statute authorized such ordinances. Said Gillespie, "It is not for police officers to decide which state statute governs the ordinances that their municipalities charge them to uphold. Police officers don't have to make that decision, nor is it appropriate for federal courts to make decisions regarding state law issues."
Parker McCay provides comprehensive legal services to a wide array of clients in such specialties as litigation, public finance, corporate, governmental and regulatory affairs. The firm also provides counsel to clients in the fields of banking, real estate, land use, healthcare, creditors' rights, and employment law. Parker McCay is headquartered in Marlton, N.J., with offices in Lawrenceville, N.J. and Atlantic City, N.J. For more information about Parker McCay, visit www.parkermccay.com.
Contact: Laurie Reiss, firstname.lastname@example.org, 856-810-5821
< Back to Press Releases