873 F.3d 414 (3rd Cir. 2017), 16-3384, Zimmerman v. Corbett

Docket Nº:16-3384
Citation:873 F.3d 414
Opinion Judge:McKEE, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:JOHN R. ZIMMERMAN v. THOMAS W. CORBETT; LINDA L. KELLY; FRANK G. FINA; K. KENNETH BROWN, II; MICHAEL A. SPROW; ANTHONY J. FIORE; GARY E. SPEAKS, Appellants
Attorney:Joshua M. Autry, Esq. [ARGUED], Frank J. Lavery, Jr., Esq., Lavery Faherty Patterson, Harrisburg, PA; Amy Zapp, Esq., Office of Attorney General of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg, PA, Attorneys for Appellants Thomas W. Corbett, Jr., Frank G. Fina, K. Kenneth Brown, II, Michael A. Sprow, Anthony J. Fior...
Judge Panel:Before: McKEE, COWEN, and FUENTES, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:October 16, 2017
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
SUMMARY

Zimmerman, a former employee of the Pennsylvania legislature, sued current and former high ranking officials of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, including a former Attorney General who subsequently became Governor, under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the defendants were all involved in bringing criminal charges against him and that those charges amounted to malicious prosecution in violation of... (see full summary)

 
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Page 414

873 F.3d 414 (3rd Cir. 2017)

JOHN R. ZIMMERMAN

v.

THOMAS W. CORBETT; LINDA L. KELLY; FRANK G. FINA; K. KENNETH BROWN, II; MICHAEL A. SPROW; ANTHONY J. FIORE; GARY E. SPEAKS, Appellants

No. 16-3384

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

October 16, 2017

Argued February 7, 2017

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA. (No. 1-13-cv-02788). District Judge: Honorable Yvette Kane.

Zimmerman v. Corbett, 195 F.Supp.3d 695, (M.D. Pa., July 15, 2016)

Joshua M. Autry, Esq. [ARGUED], Frank J. Lavery, Jr., Esq., Lavery Faherty Patterson, Harrisburg, PA; Amy Zapp, Esq., Office of Attorney General of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg, PA, Attorneys for Appellants Thomas W. Corbett, Jr., Frank G. Fina, K. Kenneth Brown, II, Michael A. Sprow, Anthony J. Fiore, Gary E. Speaks.

Frank J. Lavery, Jr., Esq., Amy Zapp, Esq., Attorneys for Appellant Linda L. Kelly.

Devon M. Jacob, Esq. [ARGUED], Mechanicsburg, PA, Attorney for Appellee.

Before: McKEE, COWEN, and FUENTES, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

McKEE, Circuit Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Appellants are current and former high ranking officials of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, including a former Attorney General who subsequently became Governor.1 They appeal the District Court's partial denial of their motion for judgment on the pleadings in an action that John Zimmerman, a former employee of the state legislature, filed against them under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Zimmerman alleged that Appellants were all involved in bringing criminal charges against him and that those charges amounted to malicious prosecution in violation of both the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution and Pennsylvania law.2

For the reasons that follow, we conclude that there was probable cause to initiate those criminal proceedings and that Zimmerman can therefore not establish a prima facie case of malicious prosecution. We will therefore reverse the District Court's order insofar as it denied Appellants' motion for judgment on the pleadings.3

II. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

This case stems from criminal charges filed against Zimmerman, who was a member of the staff of John M. Perzel. Perzel was a member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly representing the 172nd Legislative District in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Corbett, then Attorney General of Pennsylvania, conducted an investigation after receiving information " that members of the Democratic caucus received bonuses for campaign related work performed on state time." 4 Zimmerman, Perzel, and Corbett were all Republicans. In September 2007, Perzel asked Zimmerman to arrange a meeting with Corbett.5 " Corbett wanted Perzel to back him for Governor. . . .[,]" 6 but Perzel refused.7 At the time, both Corbett and Perzel intended to run for Governor in 2010.8

In November 2009, Corbett announced grand jury presentments resulting in criminal charges against ten ranking Republicans including " Perzel and his staff (one legislator and nine staff members), in what is now commonly referred to as [the] 'Computergate' [scandal]." [9] Pursuant to that investigation, the grand jury subpoenaed on the House Republican Campaign Committee (the " HRCC" ) seeking production of campaign material.10

Zimmerman was one of the nine staff members arrested pursuant to this investigation.11 Zimmerman was charged with intentionally hindering an investigation " by concealing or destroying evidence of a crime." [12] Those charges arose from allegations that he caused boxes containing campaign material that was the subject of a grand jury subpoena to be moved from their original location to a location controlled by the HRCC to prevent the grand jury from finding them. Appellants claimed that a male conspirator telephoned the HRCC from Zimmerman's desk phone and warned that boxes of campaign material would be delivered to the HRCC. Appellants also alleged that Zimmerman was typically at his desk, and that campaign material was actually moved to the HRCC after the call.[13]

Based on evidence of that phone call from Zimmerman's line, Zimmerman was charged with (1) Hindering Apprehension or Prosecution; (2) Obstructing Administration of Law or Other Governmental Function; (3) Criminal Conspiracy for Hindering Apprehension or Prosecution; and (4) Criminal Conspiracy for Obstructing Administration of Law or Other Governmental Function.14 Appellants subsequently dismissed the charges against Zimmerman.

Subsequently, Zimmerman filed the instant complaint. He alleged that Appellants maliciously prosecuted him in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments as well as Pennsylvania law.

Appellants moved to dismiss Zimmerman's complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The District Court concluded inter alia that Appellants were not entitled to qualified immunity on claims arising from allegations that (1) they manufactured...

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