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MCLAUGHLIN v. BRADLEE

December 21, 1984

FRANCIS X. McLAUGHLIN, Plaintiff,
v.
BENJAMIN C. BRADLEE, et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICHEY

 INTRODUCTION

 The Court has before it several motions in this case. All of the defendants have moved to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) and Fed. R. Civ. P. 11 on the grounds that this action is barred by the doctrine of res judicata and collateral estoppel. The defendants also request that the Court impose sanctions against the plaintiff pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 11 and 28 U.S.C. § 1927. Additionally, three of the defendants herein, Montgomery County, Maryland, Stanley Michaleski, and Miles Alban, have moved to dismiss on the grounds of improper venue. The plaintiff has opposed all of these motions, and they have been fully briefed and are now ripe for decision. For the reasons set forth in this Opinion, the Court has, by Order of even date herewith, denied the Motions to Dismiss for Improper Venue, and granted the Motions to Dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The Court has also decided to deny the requested sanctions at this time, but to retain jurisdiction of the question of sanctions until it is determined what further actions, if any, the plaintiff may take. If further proceedings are undertaken on the issues herein decided, the defendants may make application for a hearing to re-open this request at the earliest possible date consistent with the Court's docket and other responsibilities.

 BACKGROUND

 A. The Complaint and the Underlying Facts

 The Complaint in this case contains four counts, all based on an alleged conspiracy. The first three counts are brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The fourth count is a pendent claim for malicious prosecution. The named defendants are: The Washington Post Company; Post Executive Editor, Benjamin C. Bradlee; Post reporter, Maxine Chesire; Montgomery County, Maryland; and two detectives on the Montgomery County Department of Police ("MCDP"), Miles F. Alban, Jr. and Stanley Michaleski.

 The facts underlying the alleged conspiracy described in the instant suit, (and in three previous suits), can be gleaned from the Complaint, the memoranda in support of the Motions to Dismiss, and from the judicial discussion of the plaintiff's previous litigation, discussed more fully herein.

 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, *fn1" one in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, *fn2" and one in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland. *fn3" 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 ...


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