Public Entity Litigation

We have an extensive background in defending municipal entities in a variety of contexts.

The law regarding general liability, as it relates to municipal entities, is subject to frequent and sometimes dramatic fluctuation. We make it a practice to maintain an avid and vigilant understanding of this amorphous area of law and the manner in which changes may impact our clients. The most frequently used remedy to recover against municipalities and public officials for alleged wrongful conduct is the Civil Rights Act of 1871, more commonly known as Section 1983. These claims are often based on allegations of:

  • Excessive use of force
  • False arrest
  • False imprisonment
  • Malicious prosecution
  • Due process violations
  • Improper search and seizure

In addition to these Civil Rights and Constitutional violations, claimants can allege a variety of statutory and common law torts for alleged acts of general negligence, often involving motor vehicle accidents or slip-and-fall incidents. At issue in most such general liability claims brought against a municipal entity is the struggle between the public policy in favor of immunity of the municipality versus the potential plaintiff's right to pursue a claim against that governmental body. This struggle has been codified by the New Jersey Legislature in the New Jersey Tort Claims Act. The Tort Claims Act provides qualified immunities for municipal defendants in various circumstances, including:

  • Dangerous conditions on public property
  • Sidewalk liability (commercial and residential)
  • Lack of proper notice
  • Good faith execution of the law
  • Discretionary/ministerial activities, including allocation of
  • Resources and design immunity
  • Failure by plaintiff to meet a damages threshold for claims of pain and suffering

Beyond representing municipalities and public officials in specific civil rights-, Constitutional- and negligence-based claims, we are also well versed in interpreting and applying state and federal statutes and laws in the best interests of our clients, many of which are governed under the Faulkner form of government. Some of these laws include:

  • Municipal Land Use Law and its applicability to zoning boards and/or planning boards
  • The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA)
  • The Open Public Records Act (OPRA)
  • Sunshine laws
  • The Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) of 2005 and its applicability to class action suits.

This highly specialized and complex litigation requires extensive experience and skills, which we consistently demonstrate in our representation of public officials, municipalities, and public employees at the state and federal levels. More importantly, however, is the firm's pro-active approach. In order to better serve our clients, we distribute periodic legal updates designed to apprise our clients of recent decisions by state and federal courts. Legal education courses and seminars also are provided to clients to address the entire range of issues which may confront a municipality. This interactive approach, coupled with our technical knowledge, enables us to move swiftly to respond when the rights and interests of clients are in jeopardy.