Harris v. City of Newark

The New Jersey Supreme Court held that, in a New Jersey Civil Rights Act (NJCRA) action, a defendant seeking to challenge a trial court’s order denying qualified immunity prior to final judgment must proceed by motion for leave to file an interlocutory appeal in accordance with Rules 2:2-4 and 2:5-6. Plaintiff alleged that a Newark Police Department detective falsely accused him of four robberies and unlawfully arrested him in connection with those robberies based on an improperly issued arrest warrant. After the charges against Plaintiff were dismissed, he filed this NJCRA action. The defendants asserted qualified immunity as a defense and moved for summary judgment. The trial court rejected the defendants’ claims. The defendants appealed, asserting that Rule 2:2-3(a)(3) authorized them to appeal as of right the trial court’s decision denying qualified immunity. They also moved for leave to file an interlocutory appeal pursuant to Rule 2:5-6. The Appellate Division ruled that the appeal was interlocutory and dismissed the notice of appeal. The appellate court also denied the defendants’ motion for leave to appeal. The Supreme Court affirmed, perceiving no reason to depart from the general policy favoring restrained appellate review of issues relating to matters still before the trial court to avoid piecemeal litigation. Accordingly, the Court declined to add legal determinations denying the defense of qualified immunity to the narrow class of interlocutory orders subject to direct appeal under Rule 2:2-3(a).

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