A Qualified Immunity Case and a Tort Claims Act/Legal Malpractice Case for the Supreme Court

Add two more cases to the Supreme Court’s docket.  One of them is before the Court as of right, by virtue of a dissent in the Appellate Division.  In the other appeal, the Court granted certification.

The first case is Baskin v. Martinez, a Civil Rights Act matter.  The question presented there, as phrased by the Supreme Court Clerk’s office, is “In this action alleging that defendant, Detective Martinez, utilized excessive force against plaintiff, were there material issues of fact that precluded the entry of summary judgment to defendant?”

The Law Division granted summary judgment to defendant on the basis of qualified immunity.  On plaintiff’s appeal, the Appellate Division split 2-1 in an unpublished per curiam opinion.  The majority voted to reverse the summary judgment, perceiving genuine issues of material fact.  Judge Accurso, dissenting, would have affirmed the Law Division’s grant of summary judgment.  Now the Supreme Court will take its turn.

In the second case, Nieves v. Office of the Public Defender, the question presented is “Are legal malpractice claims exempt from the Tort Claims Act (TCA), N.J.S.A. 59:1-1 to 12-3, and is plaintiff’s “loss of liberty” damages claim subject to the verbal threshold of the TCA?”  The Law Division allowed plaintiff’s legal malpractice claim to proceed, denying defendants’ motion for summary judgment.  Defendants unsuccessfully sought leave to appeal, but the Supreme Court remanded the matter to the Appellate Division for consideration.  In an unpublished opinion, a three-judge panel of the Appellate Division reversed the denial of summary judgment.