Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Roselle Park pays $15,000 to settle case alleging a wrongfully issued parking ticket

In an undated agreement, the Borough of Roselle Park (Union County) agreed to pay $15,000 to an Elizabeth woman who sued a Roselle Park Police officer for "illegally, improperly and without probable cause" issuing her a summons for unlawful parking in a space marked for the physically handicapped.

In her suit, and according to an Appellate Division decision, Lorraine Selecky said Officer James Cantrell issued her the summons by mail after Cantrell, while off duty, interjected himself in an "intense argument" that Selecky was having with her 13-year-old daughter as they approached a Redbox video machine outside a 7-Eleven store in Roselle Park.  Cantrell was already at the Redbox machine with his children when Selecky and her daughter approached.  According to the Appellate Division decision, "a heated argument occurred between [Selecky] and Cantrell, either because [Selecky] thought Cantrell's children were taking too long in making their choice or because Cantrell interjected himself in [Selecky's] mother-daughter dispute."

Selecky was convicted of the offense in Roselle Park Municipal Court and the conviction was affirmed by the Law Division of the Union County Superior Court.  It was reversed by the Appellate Division and remanded to a different judge.  The second judge, sitting in Kenilworth, entered "a judgment of acquittal entered upon completion of all the testimony."

The case is captioned Selecky v. Cantrell, Union County Superior Court Docket No. UNN-L-1171-13 and Selecky's attorney was Joel I. Rachmiel of Springfield.  Case documents are on-line here.

The settlement agreement contains a confidentiality clause, which prevents the parties to the suit from publicly disclosing the settlement terms.  Fortunately, however, these confidentiality clauses do not trump the public's right to obtain copies of settlement agreements that arise out of lawsuits in which a government agency or official is a defendant.

None of Selecky's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $15,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Roselle Park or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Roselle Park or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Selecky $15,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision to settle was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases settle before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.