A Scranton lawyer who formerly represented ex-state Attorney General Kathleen Kane can’t shake a lawsuit accusing him and others of filing false charges against a businessman in an attempt to oust that man from a company board.
While tossing malicious prosecution claims against litigator and criminal defense attorney Amil Minora and three board members of a medical device company, Scranton-based U.S. District Judge Robert D. Mariani ruled that Minora and his co-defendants had to face allegations that they abused the legal process. The defendants are accused of falsely telling the Lackawanna County District Attorney’s Office that Michael G. Martin misappropriated funds from their company.
Martin, a former chairman of Med-Dev Corp., claimed in his lawsuit that Minora and the board members who retained him attempted “to extort a settlement from Martin” by agreeing to drop the charges against him if he cut all ties with the company.
In asking the judge to toss the claims against him, Minora argued that referring alleged criminal conduct to prosecutors is not an abuse of process.
But Mariani said that when put into context of Martin’s allegations that the charges were filed in an attempt to force a settlement, the claim can’t be so easily tossed aside.
“The use of the ongoing criminal investigation to leverage a favorable civil settlement, that, when applied in conjunction with the prior allegations, sufficiently alleges a perversion of process; i.e. the improper use of the criminal complaint and subsequent search warrants to achieve the allegedly unlawful and unethical objective of extracting a civil settlement,” Mariani said.
However, the judge dismissed the malicious prosecution claim because the district attorney’s office ultimately dropped the case, so no actual prosecution occurred, Mariani said.
Martin had argued that search warrants issued on his bank accounts fit the bill, but Mariani pointed to the absence of an indictment from the district attorney’s office.
“The allegations set forth in the complaint demonstrate that this case never proceeded beyond an initial investigation and the issuance of search warrants,” Mariani said. “This cannot be deemed sufficient to establish the fundamental element of any malicious prosecution claim, i.e. the occurrence of a ‘criminal proceeding.’”
Minora’s attorney, Jonathan Dryer of Wilson Elser, said the firm does not comment on pending litigation. Martin’s lawyer, Kevin F. Berry of White and Williams, declined to comment.
Martin alleged that in addition to the settlement demand, Minora emailed Martin’s counsel threatening to pursue charges in five days if he didn’t agree to the terms.
Martin also claimed that the defendants defamed him by circulating a newsletter to shareholders and investors stating that Martin was forced to resign for misappropriating corporate funds.
P.J. D’Annunzio can be contacted at 215-557-2315 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PJDannunzioTLI.