Earlier this week the NJ Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Hazel Hamrick Lee v. The City of Paterson, a case in which the League is joined as Amicus. At issue, in this case, is the interpretation of whether qualified immunity should be afforded to public employees versus absolute immunity in cases when the public employee is enforcing the law.
Both the trial court and the Appellate Division determined that when enforcing a law a public employee is only afforded qualified immunity, not absolute immunity. The matter is now before the Supreme Court to decide. Should the Court reverse the lower courts and determine that a public employee is entitled to absolute immunity when enforcing the law, then the city will not be liable for damages. However, should the Court uphold the lower courts’ decisions of allowing only qualified immunity, then the case will be remanded to the lower court for a determination to be made as to whether or not the city employee acted in good faith when enforcing the law. This is because, under qualified immunity, a city employee is granted immunity only if it can be shown that the employee acted in good faith.
At this time there is no set date for when the Court will issue its ruling. However, it is anticipated that a ruling will be issued before the beginning of December. The League will keep our members updated on this matter.
Contact: Frank Marshall, Esq., League Staff Attorney, firstname.lastname@example.org, 609-695-3481 x137.