On September 12, 2013, Joseph P. Kreoll, Esq. of The Law Offices of Richard Malagiere, P.C. gave a presentation as part of the New Jersey Police Chiefs In-Service Seminar at Galloway, New Jersey. Mr. Kreoll was invited to speak regarding the Appellate Division’s decision in the matter of Zisa v. New Jersey State PBA-LPP, 2012 WL 3600087 (App. Div.).

In the Zisa matter, Charles K. Zisa, then Hackensack Chief of Police, was denied benefits under the New Jersey State Legal Protection Plan (“LPP”). The LPP provides to PBA members $40,000.00 coverage for criminal or civil cases, $20,000.00 for administrative hearings, and $3000.00 coverage if they are the target of a criminal investigation.

Our office shared with the Police Chiefs and other supervisors present the lessons learned from this litigation. For example, when a Police Chief requests benefits from the PBA, it is one of the few scenarios where management applies to labor to obtain a benefit. This creates a tension that can increase the likelihood of the denial of the benefit. Further the Zisa case demonstrates that New Jersey Courts will strictly enforce the exhaustion of administrative remedies provisions in PBA legal protection documents, and officers seeking benefits need to closely follow these requirements.

Our office also spoke on the growth of First Amendment lawsuits in the municipal workplace, and remedies and defenses available to police officers involved in such disputes. 42 U.S.C. §1983 provides municipal employees with enforcement remedies not available to private employees (because private employers do not act under “color of state law”), and all police supervisors and subordinates should be aware of these types of claims.