A U.S. District Court judge issued a 15-page ruling Friday in an 18-month legal battle involving the Texas County prosecutor, county government and the plaintiff who alleges misdeeds by her former employers.
In his decision, federal judge Richard E. Dorr dismissed most of the claims against Texas County, threw out the bulk of allegations against Michael Anderson acting in his role as prosecutor, but let stand claims against the county’s top law enforcement official that he abused his powers and defamed the woman, Monica Daniel Hutchison, in attempt to silence her allegations against him.
The charges against Anderson and Texas County government surfaced in a January 2009 lawsuit by Hutchison. Since that time, attorneys for the defendants filed a series of motions attempting to gut the lawsuit against it before the matter is expected to go to trial later this year.
Hutchison originally filed a six-count complaint against Anderson individually, in his role as prosecutor and against Texas County related to her termination from the county prosecutor’s office, where she was employed from January 2003 until her departure in December 2005. She alleges Anderson created a hostile work environment that climaxed in the early morning hours of Dec. 18, 2005, with the prosecutor arriving on her doorstep at her home with him ringing the doorbell, banging on the door and leaving taped messages on an answering machine. A week later she turned over the tape to then Associate Circuit Judge Brad Ellsworth after Anderson obtained an order for her to produce it, according to court documents. Six months later, Anderson filed suit against Hutchison and another county employee alleging that they orchestrated a sex ring from the county seat of government. It was later dropped by Anderson. The other employee, Mildred Williams, later filed suit in July 2009 in Texas County Circuit Court against Anderson, alleging defamation, abuse of process and malicious prosecution. The lawsuit continues.
In Dorr’s ruling Friday, he:
–Dropped claims against Texas County government on nearly all counts, saying they were barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity. They include defamation, false light invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotion distress and violations of due process. Remaining for the county is an employment discrimination matter.
Texas County government filed suit last month against its insurance agent Craig Pounds and Cabool Insurance Agency that it didn’t have sufficient coverage to pay legal expenses and any damages. Its legal fees are nearly $95,000.
–Dropped employment discrimination claims against Anderson in his official capacity as prosecutor and barred punitive damages on those counts. Individual claims against Anderson stand.
–Dismissed entirely an employment discrimination matter under the state’s Human Rights Act.
–Let stand against Anderson individually that he engaged in malicious prosecution, abuse of process, defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and due process violations, but dropped the same allegations in his role as acting as prosecutor.
–Threw out entirely Daniels’ allegations of false light of invasion of privacy, saying the claim would be included with defamation charge.
Daniels is represented by the Rolla firm of Steelman and Gaunt. Anderson’s attorney is Taylor, Stafford, Clithero, FitzGerald & Harris LLP of Springfield. Texas County’s attorney is The Lowenbaum Partnership LLC, St. Louis.
Download Dorr’s ruling at www.houstonherald.com