Edmond v. U.S. Postal Service General Counsel

Decision Date11 February 1992
Docket NumberNo. 90-5071,90-5071
Citation949 F.2d 415,292 U.S.App. D.C. 240
PartiesJohn EDMOND, et al., Appellants, v. UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE GENERAL COUNSEL, et al., Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — District of Columbia Circuit

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (Civil Action No. 88-0241).

Pamela Lyles, pro se, for appellants.

John Oliver Birch, Asst. U.S. Atty., for appellees U.S. Postal Service General Counsel, et al. Jay B. Stephens, U.S. Atty., and John D. Bates and R. Craig Lawrence, Asst. U.S. Attys., Washington, D.C., were on the brief for the federal appellees. Mark E. Nagle, Asst. U.S. Atty., Washington, D.C., also entered an appearance for the federal appellees.

Ralph S. Tyler and Andrew H. Baida, Baltimore, Md., were on the brief for appellee Roger Wolf. David P. Durbin and William M. Harter, Jr., Washington, D.C., were on the brief for appellee Arnold Popkin.


Opinion for the Court filed by Circuit Judge HARRY T. EDWARDS.

Separate opinion, concurring in part and dissenting in part, filed by Circuit Judge SILBERMAN.

HARRY T. EDWARDS, Circuit Judge:

John Edmond and Pamela Lyles were indicted and thereupon arrested for mail fraud. After the indictment was dismissed, they brought a constitutional tort action against Postal Service inspectors, United States and Maryland prosecutors, and private parties, claiming a conspiracy to violate their Fourth and Sixth Amendment rights. The District Court dismissed four defendants for lack of personal jurisdiction, then the tort claims as a matter of law. We reverse in part and remand. Two colorable tort theories were presented in the complaint and subsequent filings, but the District Court failed to address them. Appellants are also entitled to discovery on the question of personal jurisdiction, because they made specific and nonspeculative allegations that a conspiracy acted to cause them injury in the District of Columbia.


In early 1986, United States Postal Service Inspector M. Sherwin Green began an investigation of Landover Contact Lens Center ("Landover"), a mail-order firm located in Maryland. John Edmond owned Landover; Pamela Lyles was Edmond's counsel, but she held no apparent ownership interest in the firm. Green's investigation eventually led to an administrative consumer protection proceeding initiated by the Maryland Office of Attorney General against Landover, a Postal Service action halting the delivery of mail to Landover and, finally, the arrest upon indictment of Edmond and Lyles.

On February 17, 1987, a federal grand jury in Maryland indicted John Edmond and Pamela Lyles for mail fraud. One day later, they were arrested at their Maryland residence by Postal Inspector Green, his supervisor Thomas Krautheim and other officers. It is undisputed that the arrest took place during the pre-dawn hours of February 18, 1987 1; that no arrest warrant was produced when Green and his cohorts entered appellants' residence; that, following their "arrest," Edmond and Lyles were first taken to a Postal Service office in Washington, D.C., where they were questioned and fingerprinted 2; that an arrest warrant was not produced until the arrestees reached the office 3; and that they were returned from Washington to the U.S. District Court in Maryland and held for nine hours (for which no explanation has been offered) before their bail hearing. 4 In addition, appellants claim that Edmond was taken from his residence in his bedclothes 5; that Green verbally abused and humiliated them, and then attempted to prevent Edmond from wearing shoes as they left the residence 6; that they were photographed at the Postal Service office 7; and that the purpose of the procedures there was to shore up Green's insubstantial case. 8 Finally, it is alleged that the named defendants conspired to "frame" Edmond and Lyles, and that Wendy Arnell, an Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Maryland, secured the indictment against Edmond and Lyles by using the perjured testimony of Richard Spitz, a businessman who had leased manufacturing facilities to Landover. 9

After their arrest, Edmond and Lyles were released pending trial. Appellants then filed a motion to dismiss the indictment for prosecutorial vindictiveness. After the charge of vindictiveness was set for hearing, the prosecutor moved to dismiss the indictment, thus mooting the claim of vindictiveness. 10

In February, 1988, Edmond and Lyles filed this action pro se in the District Court. They claimed false arrest and malicious prosecution pursuant to a racially-motivated conspiracy. The alleged conspirators, named as defendants, were Green, Krautheim, Arnell and Spitz; another Postal Service supervisor, Dewey Sparks; Spitz' lawyer Arnold Popkin; and Roger Wolf, a Maryland prosecutor who apparently was involved in the consumer protection proceedings against Edmond. The government employees were sued both officially and individually, and the United States Postal Service General Counsel was sued as well. Suit was predicated on a number of constitutional amendments; on 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985; on Maryland law; and on 15 U.S.C. § 1681 (Fair Credit Reporting Act) and 12 U.S.C. § 3408 (Right to Financial Privacy Act), for Green's alleged misuse of credit information.

The case never went to trial or even discovery. When appellants attempted to depose Spitz and Popkin, the District Court granted a protective order. Soon thereafter, in April, 1988, these two defendants were dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction. In September, 1988, Roger Wolf was dismissed on the same grounds, and the court also dismissed "all nonconstitutional tort claims actionable under the Federal Tort Claims Act," Order at 2-3, reprinted in App. 61, 62-63, but the federal officials remained as defendants to the constitutional causes of action. However, the trial court had stayed discovery at the same time Spitz and Popkin were dismissed, and this stay remained effective throughout the proceedings.

In April, 1989, appellants moved to rename Spitz and Popkin, supporting their motion with a crucial affidavit by Dr. Joseph Serian. See Declaration of Dr. Joseph S. Serian ("Serian Affidavit"), reprinted in App. 91. Serian, a former client of Pamela Lyles, assertedly was telephoned by Spitz, Popkin and Green during the Landover investigation. The Serian Affidavit states that "[e]ach of the telephone calls was characterized by extremely vicious and hostile comments.... Popkin and Spitz repeatedly called Pamela Lyles and John Edmond 'thieving niggers.' " Green, Popkin and Spitz "repeatedly stated that they were determined to put Pamela Lyles and John Edmond behind bars," and "admitted that they had no evidence to prove any crime had been committed" by the two. Finally, the Serian Affidavit asserts that the three appellees "begged [Serian] to help them by giving perjurious testimony which could convict" appellants, and "Spitz indicated that he had presented false testimony to the grand jury which indicted" Edmond and Lyles. Serian Affidavit at pp 8-9, reprinted in App. 91, 92-93.

The District Court never explicitly ruled on the motion to rename Spitz and Popkin. Rather, by Memorandum of Opinion and Order dated November 14, 1989 ("Memorandum Opinion"), 727 F.Supp. 7, reprinted in App. 65, Wendy Arnell was dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction; the federal officers were dismissed in their official capacities; and dismissal was ordered on all the constitutional tort claims. Only the Fair Credit Reporting Act claim against Green remained pending, and he was subsequently granted summary judgment on January 31, 1990. On the same day, the trial court also denied a motion by Edmond and Lyles to amend the judgment of November 14, 1989. Order Re Plaintiffs' Motion to Amend Judgment, reprinted in App. 85.

In dealing with appellants' Fourth Amendment claims, the trial court's Memorandum Opinion focuses exclusively on a so-called "Probable Cause" theory of the case, which is what the Government had focused on in moving for dismissal. In pressing this point, the Government asserted that "the 'seizure' of plaintiffs, i.e., their arrest, was by their own admission based on indictments. Therefore, probable cause had already been found to exist and the Complaint fails to state a claim under the Fourth Amendment." Dismissal Motion at 29; see also id. at 39. The District Court apparently accepted this characterization of the Fourth Amendment claims and, accordingly, dismissed the Fourth Amendment claims on this sole ground:

Although every person has the constitutional right to be free from arrest or detention without probable cause, the finding of an indictment, fair upon its face, by a properly constituted grand jury conclusively determines the existence of probable cause to arrest. Probable cause exists even if the indictment is based on unreliable, incompetent or even perjured testimony.

Memorandum Opinion at 7 (citation omitted), reprinted in App. 65, 71. The trial court did acknowledge the "factual material" in the Serian Affidavit, but found it to be "vague" with respect to allegations of wrongdoing under a Probable Cause theory. Memorandum Opinion at 8 n. 13, reprinted in App. 65, 72.

In thus finding that appellants' "fourth amendment claims fail as a matter of law," Memorandum Opinion at 8, reprinted in App. 65, 72, the trial court completely failed to address two additional, and distinct, theories of the case that had been raised in appellants' complaint, in other related documents and in "factual material" (such as the Serian Affidavit). One of these theories, which might be called Perjurer's Liability, asserts that someone who causes an indictment and consequent arrest by perjuring himself or arranging for the submission of...

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