A federal judge in Washington has temporarily put on hold a long-running suit over a Texas businessman’s fight to hold accountable the federal officers who participated in a botched prosecution against him.
U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina said late Thursday that the civil case in Washington will be postponed, at the request of the Justice Department, pending the U.S. Supreme Court’s review of certain legal issues.
DOJ has asked the high court to review a ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit last year that kept alive William Moore’s case against a group of U.S. Postal Service inspectors.
The government unsuccessfully prosecuted Moore, the former chief executive of a scanning technology company, in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on charges he participated in a bribery conspiracy.
Moore, represented by Jones Day, contends in the civil litigation that the government retaliated against him for his criticism of U.S. Postal Service policy. Moore’s suit was filed in 1992 in Washington.
The question in the case centers on qualified immunity. DOJ argues that an officer who had a reasonable basis to believe that probable cause existed is immune from suit on retaliatory prosecution claims.
DOJ lawyers said they think the Supreme Court ruling in Reichle v. Howard, which was argued March 21, will resolve the dispute in Moore’s case. The Reichle case involves a retaliatory arrest claim against two Secret Service agents.
Moore’s attorneys tried unsuccessfully to convince Urbina not to postpone proceedings in the trial court while the action in the Supreme Court is pending.
The attorneys, including Jones Day partners Paul “Mickey” Pohl and Christian Vergonis, said in court papers that Moore is losing his right to vindicate his interests the longer the case is delayed. Two of the inspectors have already died.
Urging the Supreme Court not to touch the case, Moore’s lawyers criticized the Justice Department for causing a “stunning delay” through the resurrection of issues that have already been decided.
The Justice Department said it’s not responsible for the delays in the case.
“The longevity of the proceedings in this case has instead resulted from extended litigation in which each party has prevailed on some issues and lost on others,” DOJ said in court papers in the high court.
DOJ lawyers said Moore’s focus on the burden of the protracted litigation “disregards the burden on petitioners, who have had a cloud of potential personal liability hanging over them for the last two decades. If, as they contend, they are entitled to qualified immunity, that is a burden they should no longer have to face.”