In 1970, the plaintiff, an attorney, drafted a will for his client and friend, George P. Marshall, Jr. Marshall was the son of the founder of the Washington Redskins. When Marshall died in 1976, his daughters filed suit in Florida to invalidate the will. They ultimately prevailed on the ground that McLaughlin had exercised undue influence over the testator, Marshall. In re Estate of George Preston Marshall, Jr., No. 76-3773 (Fla. Cir. Ct., 17th Judicial Circuit, May 10, 1978). During the course of the Florida probate proceeding, McLaughlin filed an affidavit, which had been executed in Montgomery County, Maryland, representing that he did not exercise undue influence over Mr. Marshall and that the witnesses to the will had never been financial participants with him, McLaughlin, "in any law practice or venture."
Sometime after that affidavit was filed in Florida, defendant Chesire, a Post reporter, began an investigation of the relationship between Tongsun Park and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tip O'Neill. During the course of this "Koreagate" investigation, Chesire came across the name of Mr. McLaughlin, who apparently had some contacts with the Speaker. Chesire conducted an investigation of McLaughlin to determine if there was a relationship between him, Park, and O'Neill, apparently finding no such connection.
Ms. Chesire brought some information and rumors about McLaughlin to the attention of defendant Alban, who was a member of the organized crime unit in the MCDP. As a result, Alban also became involved in investigations into McLaughlin's background.
After some investigation, Alban concluded that there was probable cause to believe that Mr. McLaughlin had committed perjury in the execution of the affidavit in the Florida probate proceeding. In a letter dated February 24, 1978, defendant Michaleski, at the time Alban's superior in the MCDP, communicated this belief to Ms. Muriel Waldmann, an agent in the Organized Crime Bureau of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department.
On March 22, 1978, McLaughlin was charged by Information in Florida with the felony of perjury. (This Information was superceded by a similar Information dated April 11, 1978, and the March Information was " nol prossed ".) The Information alleged that plaintiff's affidavit, which had been filed in the Marshall probate proceeding in Florida, was false. Although the affidavit had stated that none of the witnesses to the will had been financial participants with McLaughlin, one of those witnesses, Mr. Robert F. Steeves, had served as an incorporator and director with McLaughlin in two Maryland corporations, Gaelic Gifts, Ltd., and Tex-on, Inc.
On April 3, 1978, McLaughlin was arrested in Maryland on the basis of a fugitive warrant obtained in Maryland by the Broward County, Florida, Sheriff's Office. Mr. McLaughlin was released the same day. The Maryland extradition proceedings were apparently in a state of flux for four years until 1982, when McLaughlin travelled to Florida. On March 25, 1982 he was arrested and jailed by Florida authorities on the 1978 perjury charges.
After his Florida arrest, McLaughlin's perjury charge was dismissed. The Florida Attorney General appealed this dismissal to the Florida Court of Appeals. That court affirmed the dismissal on May 29, 1983.
B. The Previous Litigation
Because this case involves the assertions of preclusion based on the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel, a review of the relevant previous litigation is necessary. In 1981, Mr. McLaughlin filed, on behalf of himself and his wife, three complaints growing out of these circumstances - one in this Court,
one in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland,
and one in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland.
These three complaints were photocopies of one another with only the headings changed to reflect the different defendants named in each court. In the 1981 suit in this Court, McLaughlin joined as defendants Maxine Chesire, Miles Alban, and nine unknown "J. Doe" defendants. In the District of Maryland federal action, McLaughlin joined The Washington Post Company, E. Norman Veazy (a Wilmington, Delaware attorney), Michael J. Satz (a Florida prosecutor), David G. Vinikoor (a Florida prosecutor), the State of Florida, Stanley Michaleski, Muriel Waldmann (a Fort Lauderdale police investigator), Bryan Brooks (a Fort Lauderdale policeman), the City of Fort Lauderdale, and six unknown "J. Doe" defendants. In the Montgomery County suit, McLaughlin named Miles Alban, Montgomery County, MCDP, Robert J. DiGrazia (former chief of MCDP), Ms. Chesire, and "numerous 'J. Does'".
The 1981 complaints alleged a broad "conspiracy to discredit and oust Speaker Thomas P. O'Neill, Jr. of the House of Representatives and to discredit and to tortiously injure Plaintiff Francis X. McLaughlin." (1981 Complaints at 2). Each of the complaints included seven counts: abuse of process, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, intentional infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy, business tort, and denial of constitutional rights. Id. at 11-15.
1. The Proceedings in This Court
On November 5, 1982, in the suit in this Court, Judge Gesell decided to decline to exercise pendent jurisdiction over the first six claims in the 1981 complaint, since they would be tried in the Montgomery County Circuit Court. See United Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 726, 16 L. Ed. 2d 218, 86 S. Ct. 1130 (1966); Doe v. Board of Professional Responsibility, 230 U.S. App. D.C. 367, 717 F.2d 1424, 1427 (D.C. Cir. 1983). On June 2, 1983, Judge Gesell granted Chesire summary judgment as to the remaining claim, count seven, which alleged that plaintiff had been deprived of various constitutional rights, including the right to due process. The June 2 Memorandum also granted in part defendant Alban's motion to dismiss by eliminating McLaughlin's claim of false arrest in Maryland on the fugitive charge. (Memorandum at 7). This decision was based on a finding that "the arrest was lawful and none of his constitutional rights were infringed." Id. Judge Gesell found that "there was a reasonable basis to believe perjury had occurred." Id. at 6.
On June 21, 1983, Judge Gesell denied McLaughlin's motion for reconsideration. On July 6, 1983, McLaughlin moved for relief pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b), contending that he had newly-discovered evidence of "discovery fraud" by Chesire's counsel. That motion was denied on July 15, 1983. McLaughlin appealed to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. On March 9, 1984, that court summarily affirmed Judge Gesell's Order, with costs. McLaughlin v. Chesire, No. 83-1725 (D.C. Cir. March 9, 1984). Judge Gesell later denied another Rule 60(b) motion.
After the instant lawsuit was filed, the case against defendant Alban went to trial before Judge Gesell on the single remaining issue: "Did Alban knowingly supply false information to the Florida States (sic) Attorney in a reckless and malicious manner under circumstances constituting unlawful state action?" Memorandum at 8. On September 13, 1984, at the close of McLaughlin's evidence as to liability, Judge Gesell granted Alban's motion for directed verdict. Ruling from the bench, Judge Gesell found that "there is no evidence that can go to the jury here that Mr. Alban did not have a reasonable belief that the information he was communicating was true and appropriate consistent with his duties." (Tr. at 170). Judge Gesell also stated that Paul v. Davis, 424 U.S. 693, 96 S. Ct. 1155, 47 L. Ed. 2d 405 (1976), among other cases, demonstrated the insufficiency of the plaintiff's case. (Tr. at 171). Finally, Judge Gesell relied on plaintiff's failure to establish "that officer Alban caused the lodging of the perjury information against Mr. McLaughlin." Id. at 172. Judge Gesell awarded costs to the defendant. Id. at 173.
2. The Proceedings in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County
The proceedings in the Montgomery County Circuit Court were very complicated. On June 9, 1981, Judge Roslyn B. Bell granted defendant Alban's demurrer to Counts I (abuse of process) and VI ("Business Tort", i.e. interference with contractual relations), and plaintiff later filed amended Counts I and VI. On September 3, 1981, Judge Bell granted defendant Chesire's demurrers to amended Count I, and Counts IV ("Intentional Infliction, Etc.") and V (invasion of privacy). On September 18, 1981, plaintiff filed a twice-amended Count I, and amended Counts IV and V. On December 2, 1981, Judge Bell granted the demurrers by defendants Chesire, Alban, and DiGrazia to these three counts without leave to amend. On January 7, 1982, Judge Bell reversed herself as to the dismissal of twice-amended Count I, and reinstated this Count as against defendant Chesire.
On January 18, 1982, Judge Bell granted defendant Alban's Motion for Summary Judgment as to Counts II (false imprisonment), III (malicious prosecution), and VII (denial of constitutional rights). On January 31, 1983, Judge Bell dismissed, with prejudice, the last remaining Count as to defendant Alban, Count VI, as a sanction for plaintiff's continued refusal to comply with discovery orders.
Some of the Counts were still alive as to defendants Chesire and DiGrazia when Judge Bell recused herself on April 13, 1983. McLaughlin had sought her recusal because of, inter alia, Washington Post endorsements of the incumbent Montgomery County Judges, including Judge Bell. Circuit Judge Calvin R. Sanders was appointed to hear the case.
The case went to trial in October, 1983. McLaughlin proceeded against defendant Chesire on Counts I (abuse of process), II (false imprisonment), III (malicious prosecution), VI (interference with contractual relations), and VII (denial of constitutional rights), and against defendant DiGrazia on Counts I and VI. The plaintiffs' case consumed 13 complete days of trial. On November 2, 1983, at the close of plaintiff's case, Judge Sanders entered a directed verdict for DiGrazia as to his remaining Counts (I and VI), and for Chesire as to Counts I and VII. Defendant Chesire then presented her case in four days, and McLaughlin put on a rebuttal case. On November 10, 1983, one month to the day after the start of the trial, the Montgomery County jury returned a verdict for Chesire on all three remaining counts.
McLaughlin appealed to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. In that appeal, he attacked some of Judge Bell's orders, and also complained of "discovery fraud" during the trial. On June 28, 1984, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals rejected plaintiff's arguments. In its unreported Opinion, the Court stated that "the McLaughlins cite little or no authority to support the arguments raised on appeal." McLaughlin v. Alban, No. 1608, slip op. at 4 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. June 28, 1984). Citing five violations of the Maryland Rules, the Court dismissed the appeal with costs and with the following scolding:
Counsel is obligated to comply with the Maryland Rules of Procedure. In a series of holdings so numerous as not to need citation, the Court of Appeals and this Court have warned over and over again that failure to read and obey the rules may result in a dismissal of the appeal. In this case we propose to do exactly that. The appeal is dismissed.