Golaine v. Cardinale (1976): The three necessary preconditions for indemnification under Title 59 are that the public official was acting in a matter in which the municipality has an interest, the officer was acting in the discharge of a duty imposed or authorized by law, and that the officer was acting in good faith.
Centennial Land & Development v. Medford Township (1979): Absolute Immunity (as opposed to qualified immunity) applies to members of Planning and Zoning Boards engaged in quasi-judicial activity.
Anastasio v. West Orange Planning Board (1986): Board members are eligible for absolute immunity even when they ignore a court order to grant an approval.
Dowson v. Lodi (1986): No workers’ compensation coverage for injury sustained while playing softball because there was no benefit to the town beyond morale.
Palmentieri v. Atlantic City (1988): Council cannot indemnify a Council Member for allegedly derogatory comments made at a rally organized by a citizens action committee because speaking at this rally was not within the scope of the Council Member’s duty. In 2000, Palmentieri was effectively overturned in Loigmann v. Monmouth County (see below).
Lopez v. Elizabeth (1991): High level discretionary policy decisions whether to burden the taxpayers to furnish equipment, material, facilities, personnel or services are absolutely immune and operational governmental decisions to devote existing resources to one activity at the expense of another are immune unless palpably unreasonable.
SL Industries v. American Motorists (1992): An insurer has no duty to reimburse an insured for defense costs incurred before the insured reports the claim.
Crank v. Palermo (1999): A Housing Authority Commissioner on HA business who was injured while riding as a passenger in a HA-owned vehicle cannot sue the HA for injuries sustained in that accident because a Commissioner is considered as an employee covered by Workers’ Compensation and therefore subject to the sole recourse rule.
Loigmann v. Monmouth County (2000): By using the word “may” in a applicable Title 59 provision, the legislature left the decision to indemnify or not indemnify to the governing body of a “local unit of government” and the courts will not usually second guess that decision. Loigmann effectively overturns Palmentiere v. Atlantic City (1988). However, note that this decision does not apply to state and BOE officials/employees because the Title 59 indemnification provisions for them use the word “shall”
Hopkins v. Gloucester City (2003): Immunity does not attach to actions taken with actual malice.
Re: Zisa (2008): Following the advice of the municipal attorney on an ethics matter provides limited safe harbor.
State v. Lake (2009): A 5 year jail sentence was upheld for a Mayor who offered his opponent a job if the opponent dropped out of Mayor’s race.
Donato & Calogero v. Moldow (2005): The operator of an electronic community bulletin board is not liable for defamatory messages posted by others.
Rosenblatt v. Camilla (2012): Appellate Court threw out a defamation case brought by a Council Member because it failed to meet the high standard in Sullivan v NY Times.
Zirkle v. Fairfield (2015): Council has the right but not the duty to defend a member of the governing body.
Election Law Enforcement v. James (2015): The outstanding balance in an election fund cannot be used for legal fees associated with a possible criminal matter.
McCurrie v. Kearney (2002): A council’s discretion to defend and indemnify its clerk under NJSA 40A:8-134.1 is broader than its duty to do so.
Trotta v. Bogota (2016): The destruction of trees is regrettable, and the plaintiffs felt that the town acted underhandedly. Nevertheless, even a bad decision is not an unconstitutional decision. This case is an excellent discussion of current controlling law on local squabbles.