65 F.3d 189 (D.C. Cir. 1995), 93-5341, Moore v. Valder

Docket Nº:93-5341, 93-5343.
Citation:65 F.3d 189
Party Name:William G. MOORE, Jr., Appellant, v. Joseph B. VALDER, et al., Appellees.
Case Date:September 22, 1995
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
 
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Page 189

65 F.3d 189 (D.C. Cir. 1995)

William G. MOORE, Jr., Appellant,

v.

Joseph B. VALDER, et al., Appellees.

Nos. 93-5341, 93-5343.

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit

September 22, 1995

Argued Jan. 18, 1995.

Rehearing and Suggestion for Rehearing In Banc Denied Jan. 23, 1996.

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On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (92cv02288 and 93cv00324).

Paul M. Pohl, argued the cause for the appellant. On brief was James E. Anklam.

Robert V. Zener, argued the cause for appellees Valder, et al.

Jonathan R. Siegel, Attorney, Department of Justice, argued the cause for appellee United States of America. On brief were Frank W. Hunger, Assistant Attorney General, Eric H. Holder, Jr., United States Attorney, and Barbara L. Herwig, Attorney, Department of Justice. Gordon W. Daiger and Robert M. Loeb entered appearances.

Before: EDWARDS, Chief Judge; WALD and HENDERSON, Circuit Judges.

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KAREN LECRAFT HENDERSON, Circuit Judge:

Appellant William G. Moore, Jr. (Moore) appeals the dismissal of his Bivens and Federal Tort Claims Act claims against Assistant United States Attorney Joseph B. Valder (Valder), six United States Postal Service Inspectors (postal inspectors) 1 and the United States. Moore sued for injuries allegedly caused by Valder's and the postal inspectors' malicious and retaliatory prosecution of him. We affirm in part and reverse in part.

I.

Moore was indicted in October 1988 on various counts of theft and fraud. Moore was chairman, president and chief executive officer of Recognition Equipment Incorporated (REI), a company interested in supplying the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) with address-scanning equipment. The indictment charged that Moore and Robert Reedy, another REI employee, engaged in a scheme to defraud the federal government by persuading William Spartin to recommend for the position of United States Postmaster General a candidate who favored using REI's address-scanning equipment. Spartin was both president of Gnau & Associates, Inc. (GAI), a consulting firm hired by REI, and president of a subsidiary of an executive search firm hired by the USPS to identify a qualified candidate to serve as Postmaster General. The indictment also accused Moore and Reedy of participating in a scheme by which GAI employees paid money to Peter E. Voss, a member of the USPS Board of Governors, in return for Voss's steering business to GAI and its clients. REI had hired GAI at the suggestion of Voss. Five co-conspirators, including Voss and John R. Gnau, Jr., the principal of GAI, either pleaded guilty or testified about the fraud pursuant to a grant of immunity.

In November 1989, at the close of the government's case in Moore's criminal non-jury trial, the district court granted Moore's motion for a judgment of acquittal. United States v. Recognition Equip. Inc., 725 F.Supp. 587 (D.D.C.1989). The district court found insufficient evidence to support a reasonable inference that Moore and Reedy knew of either scheme. Id. Moore then filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas against Valder and the postal inspectors, asserting a Bivens 2 cause of action for malicious prosecution (malicious prosecution claim) and a Bivens claim for prosecution in retaliation for the exercise of his first amendment right (retaliatory prosecution claim). 3 Moore later filed a second complaint in the Northern District of Texas seeking recovery from the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. Secs. 2671 et seq., for the same alleged injuries.

In the two complaints Moore alleged that Valder and the postal inspectors maliciously prosecuted him, even though they knew that he was unaware of the fraud, based on his and REI's criticism of USPS procurement policies and on his recommendations to the President of qualified candidates for Postmaster General. In addition, Moore alleged other misconduct, including claims that Valder told several postal inspectors in the presence of a grand jury witness that he did not care whether Moore was in fact guilty because he wanted to secure a "high-profile" indictment to further his career; that Valder and the postal inspectors intimidated and coerced witnesses into changing their testimony to incriminate Moore; that they concealed evidence of Moore's innocence; that they manipulated witness testimony and presented to the grand jury false, incomplete and misleading written witness statements; that they lost, destroyed or concealed from the grand jury exculpatory information; that they disclosed grand jury testimony to third

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parties; and that Valder withheld material exculpatory information from Moore after indictment.

The district court dismissed the Bivens claims against Valder, holding that he was protected by absolute immunity. The court denied the postal inspectors' motion to dismiss the Bivens claims against them on the ground of qualified immunity and then transferred the remaining claims to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, concluding that it lacked in personam jurisdiction. The FTCA complaint was also transferred and the parties stipulated to the consolidation of the two cases by the district court here.

The district court first denied Moore's motion to return the complaints to the Northern District of Texas. The court then dismissed the Bivens claims against the postal inspectors because Moore's complaint did not recite direct evidence of their alleged unconstitutional motive and therefore did not satisfy a heightened pleading standard. The court also dismissed the FTCA claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, holding that the alleged misconduct fell within the FTCA's discretionary function exception.

II.

On appeal Moore contends that Valder is not entitled to absolute immunity; that the court erred in applying a heightened pleading standard to his Bivens complaint; and that the FTCA's discretionary function exception does not preserve the United States's sovereign immunity from liability for the alleged misconduct. In analyzing his claims, we group the specific misconduct alleged by Moore into four categories: pressuring witnesses into incriminating Moore; concealing and distorting exculpatory evidence to create misleading or incomplete witness accounts of what Moore knew about the alleged fraud; 4 withholding material exculpatory information from Moore after indictment; and disclosing grand jury testimony to unauthorized third parties.

  1. Claims Against Valder

    The district court dismissed Moore's Bivens claims against Valder, holding that Valder was protected by absolute immunity. 5 We review de novo a dismissal for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted but accept the facts as alleged in the complaint. Kowal v. MCI Communications Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276, 1273 (D.C.Cir.1994). We hold that absolute immunity shields Valder from liability for the decision to prosecute Moore and for some, but not all, of the other alleged instances of misconduct.

    In several decisions the Supreme Court has considered whether and to what extent a state or local prosecutor qua prosecutor is immune from liability under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983. As the Court has recognized, the law of immunity in a Bivens claim against a federal official mirrors that in a section 1983 claim against a state official. See, e.g., Butz v. Economou, 438 U.S. 478, 504, 98 S.Ct. 2894, 2909-10, 57 L.Ed.2d 895 (1978) (deeming it "untenable to draw a distinction for purposes of immunity law between suits brought against state officials under Sec. 1983 and suits brought directly under the Constitution against federal officials"); see also Briggs v. Goodwin, 569 F.2d 10, 17-18 n. 8 (D.C.Cir.1977) ("[A]ssuming the rule of Bivens comprehends a damage action for a particular constitutional infringement by a federal officer, the federally-determined immunity applicable in such a case should be no different from the federally-determined immunity available in a Sec. 1983 suit against a state official.") (emphasis original).

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    Accordingly, we look to those decisions for guidance.

    In Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 96 S.Ct. 984, 47 L.Ed.2d 128...

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