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John R. Mclaughlin and Charles Micewski v. Michael Fisher

December 16, 2010

JOHN R. MCLAUGHLIN AND CHARLES MICEWSKI, PLAINTIFFS
v.
MICHAEL FISHER, GERALD PAPPERT, BRUCE SARTESCHI, DAVID KWAIT, AND JAMES CAGGIANO, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is Defendant Michael Fisher's Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law. (Doc. 184.) For the reasons discussed more fully below, the Motion will be granted.

BACKGROUND

The factual background of this case was outlined by the Court in a previous Memorandum Order (Doc.139), and need not be delved into in detail again. The instant suit essentially involved retaliation claims made by Plainitiffs, working in the Philadelphia office of the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General ("OAG") as narcotics agents, against Defendant Fisher, who at the time was the Pennsylvania Attorney General, and other senior staff members of the OAG.

Plaintiffs filed the instant suit on October 2, 1998, alleging they had been transferred in retaliation for an earlier lawsuit they had brought, which had alleged that Defendant Fisher and others had conspired to ruin Plaintiffs' careers by engaging in a conspiracy to protect a drug organization with ties to the CIA. The Court denied Defendants Motion for Summary Judgment on May 33, 2002 (Doc. 33), and, at the close of the jury trial, Defendants jointly moved for Judgment as a Matter of Law, under Fed. R. Civ. P. 50. The Court granted the Motion only as to Defendant Warner, and on February 7, 2003, the jury returned a verdict for the Plaintiffs and awarded them $1.5 million (one-million five-hundred thousand dollars) in compensatory and punitive damages. The remaining Defendants then renewed their joint Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law. (Doc. 73.)

On March 7, 2005, the Court denied the Motion, and ordered a new trial as to Defendant Fisher, unless each Plaintiff remitted $75,000.00 (seventy-five thousand dollars) in excess punitive damages against Defendant Fisher. (Doc. 139.) Plaintiffs refused to remit the excess punitive damages and the Court placed the case as to Defendant Fisher on the trial list. Defendants then moved to have the judgment against Defendants Pappert, Sarteschi, Kwait, and Caggiano certified as final pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b) and to stay the trial relating to Defendant Fisher pending the outcome of their appeal to the Third Circuit. (Doc. 146.)

The Court granted that Motion (Doc. 162), and on May 1, 2008, the Third Circuit reversed the Court's Order of March 7, 2005 and granted the Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law as to Defendants Kwait, Caggiano, Sarteschi, and Pappert. (Doc. 182.) In finding insufficient evidence to support the jury verdict for the Plaintiffs, the Third Circuit dismissed the two bases of this Court's denial of the Judgment as a Matter of Law: (1) the temporal proximity between Plaintiffs' transfers and their alleged protected activity and (2) the "totality of circumstances" supporting causation between the original lawsuit and the transfers.

Since the Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law that was denied by this Court in its Order of March 7, 2005 was filed jointly by all Defendants, including Defendant Fisher, he argues that the Third Circuit ruling granting the original Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law is equally applicable to him. The unopposed Motion has been briefed and is ripe for review.

DISCUSSION

Defendant Fisher's Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law will be granted. Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(a) provides:

If a party has been fully heard on an issue during a jury trial and the court finds that a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the party on that issue, the court may:

(A) resolve the issue against the party; and

(B) grant a motion for judgment as a matter of law against the party on a claim or defense that, under the controlling law, can be maintained or defeated only with a favorable finding on that issue.

Furthermore, Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(e) states: If the court denies the motion for judgment as a matter of law, the prevailing party may, as appellee, assert grounds entitling it to a new trial should the appellate court conclude that the trial court erred in denying the motion. If the appellate court reverses the judgment, it may order a new trial, direct the ...


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