In 2018, Michael Dailey filed an action for malicious prosecution pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 on behalf of a former Professor of Electrical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. The Professor’s widely acclaimed research in the early 2000’s had put Tech on the map in the field of wireless technology.
Dr. Laskar was also a charismatic academician who had attracted some $70 Million in research grants to the Institute. He additionally advised some 50 doctoral candidates, more than any other Institute professor.
Dr. Laskar worked to help Tech compete with the likes of MIT and Stanford in spinning out commercial companies founded by Institute faculty members. He gave impetus to this effort by co-founding the Georgia Electronics Design Center at Tech. All of this he did exceptionally well, until Georgia Tech inexplicably decided that he had been stealing upwards of $1 Million in Institute funds to buy chips for one of his spin-out companies. The Institute’s investigation was extravagantly false, so much so that the investigators did not initially understand that the chips in question were prototypes with no market value whatsoever, and for which existing Institute policy permitted University funds to be used in their acquisition. Nonetheless, the investigators’ report of wrongdoing was transmitted by them to local law enforcement, prompting Dr. Laskar to be formally charged and subjected to a humiliating “perp walk” for the benefit of local TV cameras. This publicity, which Tech helped make possible, occurred in violation of Faculty and Board of Regents Policies prohibiting such publicity before a final determination of the faculty member’s case had been made. As one might imagine, Dr. Laskar’s career was effectively demolished.
The criminal case brought against Dr. Laskar was later dismissed on statute of limitations grounds.
When bringing a Section 1983 malicious prosecution case for damages, it is the plaintiff’s burden to show that the termination of her underlying criminal case constituted a “favorable termination.”
Seven of the 12 Circuit Courts of Appeal in the US federal system have ruled that a “favorable termination” is one in which there is an “indicia of innocence” demonstrated for the criminal defendant in the termination of his or her case.
The civil case that Michael Dailey filed for Dr. Laskar in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia was dismissed by the trial court, as the Judge concluded that Dr. Laskar’s criminal case dismissal did not demonstrate any “indicia of innocence.”
Indeed, it had not, as Dr. Laskar’s criminal case was dismissed on grounds that the applicable statute of limitations had expired. Dr. Laskar had had no opportunity to show either guilt or innocence, as the case was dismissed because the
Prosecutor had waited too long to seek an indictment from the grand jury.
Dailey took an appeal to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over appeals arising from federal cases decided in Florida, Georgia and Alabama. There, the decision of the trial court was reversed. The 11th Circuit accepted Mr. Dailey’s argument that a better and vastly fairer test was a requirement that the dismissal of the criminal case be on grounds “not inconsistent with innocence.”
In that way, technical dismissals of the kind which Dr. Laskar had received would still permit the initiation of a civil Section 1983 malicious prosecution case for damages.
The NYTimes, in late 2020, wrote a story chronicling this step in Dr Laskar’s legal journey, one of four such articles the Times has written about Dr. Laskar. See the "More" link below.
While the State of Georgia’s Attorney General, who is representing the Georgia Tech employees whom Mr Dailey sued on behalf of Dr. Laskar for the false and misleading report that they provided to law enforcement, sought a petition for rehearing of our 11th Circuit Court decision from all 11th Circuit Court members (which petition was denied), another case, referred to here simply as Thompson v. Clark, emerged from one of the seven Circuits that adhere to the “indication of innocence” test. It petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the dismissal of Thompson’s Section 1983 action on the basis of Mr. Dailey’s victory for Dr. Laskar in the 11th Circuit.
Thompson argued that the Supreme Court should resolve the conflict now existing among the Circuits because of the Laskar case, and to adopt the principle enunciated by the 11th Circuit. The Supreme Court has granted certiorari to hear the Thompson v. Clark case.
This action prompted Georgia’s Attorney General to file a Petition for Certiorari of its own. Mr. Dailey has responded to report to the Supreme Court that Dr. Laskar does not oppose the grant of certiorari, and further to request that the Laskar case – which gave rise to this entire issue – be consolidated with
Thompson v. Clark and argued with it jointly. The Supreme Court’s decision is pending.
Mr Dailey, says ”The issue is a timely one, since Section 1983 is a key statutory mechanism for redressing constitutional deprivations occurring upon unlawful seizures in violation of the Fourth Amendment to our U.S. Constitution. Amidst the
national debate currently underway regarding policing and police reform, the ability of those who have suffered constitutional harm to be able to redress their wrongful treatment is essential.”