Texas businessman William Moore, who has long fought to hold government officials accountable for their failed prosecution against him in the 1980s, doesn't want his suit sitting around any longer than it has.
Last summer, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit kept afloat Moore's retaliation case, sending it back to Washington's federal district court for a trial on the merits. One judge expressed dismay the suit has dragged on since the early 1990s.
Moore, the former chief executive of a scanning equipment company called Recognition Equipment Inc., claims the government retaliated against him for his criticism of U.S. Postal Service policy. The suit has climbed up and down the litigation ladder since 1991, even once reaching the U.S. Supreme Court.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Justice Department filed court papers in the high court asking it to keep Moore’s suit pending a bit longer to allow the Court to rule in another matter.
Moore’s attorneys at Jones Day, including Paul “Mickey” Pohl and Christian Vergonis, yesterday lambasted Justice for trying to push the case off again.
“In effect, defendants want Moore to wait on the sidelines for several more months while another case, involving different parties, and raising an entirely different cause of action, gets settled by the Supreme Court,” Vergonis, a Jones Day trial and appellate partner, said in a court brief.
Vergonis said it’s highly unlikely the Supreme Court will review the Moore case again given the small percentage of cases the high court takes up and the fact that the D.C. Circuit unanimously declined as a full court to hear the dispute.
The Supreme Court first examined Moore’s claims six years ago. At issue in the litigation is whether the Postal Service agents who investigated Moore are immune from liability.
Justice attorneys contend the agents enjoy qualified immunity and that there was probable cause to investigate Moore for his role in a kickback conspiracy. Moore’s attorneys argue that federal trial and appellate courts have already addressed the viability of a qualified immunity claim.
“The Supreme Court could have—but didn’t—grant qualified immunity to the individual defendants then, and there is no reason to think that it would do so now,” Vergonis said.
Moore’s lawyers want U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina in Washington to convene a scheduling conference to set a trial date. But any trial could be months away. (Also, Urbina is set to leave the bench in March.)
The Solicitor General’s Office on Jan. 4 asked the Supreme Court to review the D.C. Circuit’s decision to keep Moore’s claims alive. The government's legal team said in its pitch to the Court that its decision in another pending case could affect Moore's suit.
Justice lawyers said the high court’s decision in Reichle v. Howards—the case is set for argument in March—“is likely to affect the rules governing not only retaliatory-arrest cases, but also retaliatory-prosecution cases like this one.”