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Government, Public Official and Municipal Liability Defense

Overview

There are few things more disruptive and stressful to a public servant than to be sued for performing his or her official duties. We regularly defend public entities and officials against such claims. Our approach is simple: We view the public official’s problem as our problem, freeing our clients to return to their official duties knowing the matter is in capable hands.

Our firm has decades of experience defending constitutional officers, state and local government officials, and municipalities in all manner of litigation affecting public servants in Virginia. Whether representing a law enforcement officer, prosecutor, judge, registrar, elected official, or other public servant, we have the experience, focus, and tenacity to mount an aggressive and effective defense. Litigation is time consuming, the process is complex, and the stakes can be enormous. At ThompsonMcMullan, we strive to deliver the peace of mind to public servants and achieve favorable results on their behalf.

Our Government, Public Official, and Municipal Liability Defense practice includes:

  • “Section 1983” lawsuits alleging violation of federal statutory or constitutional rights, including claims alleging violation of free speech, first amendment retaliation, false arrest, malicious prosecution, excessive force, deprivation of due process, denial of access to courts, deliberate indifference, and unlawful conditions of confinement
  • Federal statutory and class action claims against public officials under Title VII, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and the Family Medical Leave Act
  • Lawsuits seeking writs of mandamus, writs of prohibition, and injunctions
  • Election law claims, including elections contests, ballot access lawsuits, voter registration challenges, Voting Rights Act claims, National Voter Registration Act claims, Help America Vote Act claims, and Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act claims
  • Virginia Freedom of Information Act claims related to the transaction of public business, meetings, exclusions, and requests to inspect and copy documents
  • State common law and statutory claims for negligence, defamation, assault, battery, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, and wrongful termination
  • Litigation of affirmative defenses under the doctrines of sovereign immunity, 11th Amendment immunity, qualified immunity, and absolute judicial and prosecutorial immunity

Representative Experience

  • Kenneth Lecky v. Virginia State Board of Elections, 285 F. Supp. 3d 908 (E.D. Va. 2018) (Alexandria Division). Successfully defended the local registrar and electoral board members in a series of injunction lawsuits brought seeking to challenge the result of the election for the house of delegates. Following the United States District Court’s opinion denying an emergency preliminary injunction, we successfully defended against an appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
  • Black v. Woody, No. 3:17-cv-839, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 43146 (E.D. Va. Mar. 16, 2018) (Richmond Division)Obtained dismissal of a lawsuit filed against Sheriff Woody seeking $2.35 million dollars as damages for the alleged false imprisonment and unlawful seizure of an inmate denied release into a home incarceration program.
  • Davison v. Dunnavant, 96 Va. Cir. 48 (Va. Cir. Ct. 2017) (County of Henrico). Successfully defended a state senator in a FOIA lawsuit alleging that FOIA was violated when certain content was deleted from the senator’s Facebook page. The court initially ruled that FOIA did not apply to a state senator, but subsequently reversed this decision. The senator prevailed following a trial on the merits.
  • United States v. Woody, 220 F. Supp. 3d 682 (E.D. Va. 2016). Obtained a complete dismissal on a motion for summary judgment in a lawsuit brought against a state constitutional officer by the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division alleging a violation of Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
  • Daily Press, LLC v. Office of the Executive Secretary, 293 Va. 551 (2017). We defended sixty-eight (68) circuit court clerks in a FOIA lawsuit brought by the Daily Press. The Daily Press sought certain court records from OES, arguing that OES was the “custodian” of court records in its possession. The Supreme Court of Virginia held that the clerks are the custodians of the records under FOIA, and that the records were consequently exempt.
  • Keller v. Aloisio, No. CL15-359 (Va. Cir. Ct. Nov. 30, 2016) (County of Stafford). Successfully defended a law enforcement officer before a jury in a battery/false arrest lawsuit. The plaintiff claimed that he suffered a traumatic brain injury following his seizure by law enforcement in his home. The jury trial resulted in a defense verdict.
  • Washington v. Marks, No. CL14-396 (Va. Cir. Ct. Nov. 3, 2015) (City of Petersburg). Successfully defended a law enforcement officer in a jury trial conducted in a plaintiff-friendly venue. The plaintiff was seized by the defendant’s police dog when he attempted to leave the scene of a traffic stop. He sued for injuries sustained as a result of the seizure. The trial resulted in a defense verdict.
  • McEachin v. Longest, CL16-3348 (Va. Cir. Ct. Jan. 30, 2018) (City of Richmond). Defended a law enforcement officer in a jury trial in another plaintiff-friendly jurisdiction. The plaintiff sued for personal injuries sustained when the law enforcement officer allegedly used excessive force to seize the plaintiff. Following a two-day trial, the jury returned a plaintiff’s verdict but awarded only $2,500 as damages.
  • Lucas v. Woody, 287 Va. 354 (2014). Represented a sheriff in a lawsuit brought by a former inmate alleging unlawful conditions of confinement. We filed a plea in bar of the statute of limitations asserting that the one-year limitation period stated in Virginia Code § 8.01-243.2 governed the former inmate’s lawsuit, and that his case is time-barred. The plaintiff argued that Code § 8.01-243.2 does not apply because he was not incarcerated at the time he filed suit. The trial court sustained the plea in bar, and the Supreme Court of Virginia affirmed in a published opinion.
  • King v. Darden, No. 3:17-cv-742 (E.D. Va. Memo Op. Apr. 19, 2019). Obtained outright dismissal of a lawsuit against a Commonwealth’s Attorney alleging malicious prosecution and unlawful seizure.
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