Appeals Panel Dismisses Malicious Prosecution Lawsuit Against State; Rules DCJ Members Who Prosecuted Candidate Have Immunity
TRENTON – A Superior Court Appellate panel today ordered a malicious prosecution lawsuit brought against the State by former Atlantic City mayoral candidate Marty Small dismissed after ruling that three Deputy Attorneys General and two detectives who pursued a voter fraud case against him are entitled to immunity from such claims.
In ruling in favor of the State and dismissing the lawsuit brought by Small and his former campaign consultant, Thomas Quirk, the Appellate panel reversed a lower court decision and invoked a previously-articulated Supreme Court concern about the potential impact that “harassment by unfounded litigation” could have on law enforcement decision-making.
Small ran in the Atlantic City mayoral primary in 2009. Both he and Quirk were subsequently indicted on State charges of conspiracy to commit election fraud, absentee ballot fraud and other alleged offenses. They were acquitted in 2011 and later sued the State and the five individual DCJ defendants, alleging malicious prosecution and civil rights violations, among other allegations. The State vigorously denied the allegations and sought, unsuccessfully, to have the lawsuit dismissed at the trial court level.
Division of Criminal Justice Director Elie Honig said today’s Appellate ruling, that the detectives and DAsG who worked on the Small prosecution have immunity under the Tort Claims Act, represents an important legal victory for the Division, and for members of law enforcement at every level throughout the state.
“As the Appellate Court recognized in its decision, prosecutors and law enforcement officers provide a unique – and critical — public service, and should not be subjected to frivolous lawsuits simply for doing their jobs,” Honig said.
Division of Law Assistant Attorney General Lisa Puglisi and Deputy Attorney General Luanh D’Mello handled the Small/Quirk matter on behalf of the State.