Civil Procedure

7th Circuit revives acquitted lawyer's malicious prosecution suit over witness bribery case


Acquitted almost immediately in a 2009 trial over a claimed witness bribe, attorney Michael J. “Mick” Alexander then filed a civil suit against his accusers under the Federal Tort Claims Act

He contended that the Delaware County, Ind., prosecutor and two FBI agents had conspired to make a false accusation against him, but a federal district court dismissed the case for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.

Last week, a federal appeals court in Chicago put Alexander back in the ball game. Assuming, for the purposes of deciding his case, that the allegations in his district court complaint were true, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that Alexander had adequately pleaded a malicious prosecution claim.

Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure “does not demand that a plaintiff prove his case at the outset of the litigation, nor does it demand that a plaintiff come to court ready to plead facts (such as the motivations of agents Freeman and Howell) that he has no way of knowing prior to discovery,” the court explained in its June 26 opinion (PDF)

“While we agree that Alexander’s tale would undoubtedly seem more probable if he offered some reason for the agents’ animus … probability is not the standard,” the appellate panel wrote. “Unfortunately, in a world where public corruption is hardly unknown, we cannot agree that Alexander’s complaint is too implausible to hold together absent allegations of this sort. We might wish to live in a world in which such an egregious abuse of one’s official position would be unthinkable, but experience suggests that we do not.”

The court also revived Alexander’s claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, which had been dismissed as untimely under the two-year statute of limitations. Although some of the alleged conduct that could have supported this claim dated back more than two years prior to the filing of his suit, other conduct was more recent, the court said.

See also:

The Star Press: “Mick Alexander lawsuit back from the dead”

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