CINCINNATI (CN) – The 6th Circuit dismissed the claims of prominent Democratic trial lawyer Geoffrey Fieger, who sued Michigan Supreme Court Justice Stephen Markman for allegedly conspiring to retaliate against him for spending $457,000 on television ads bashing Markman in the 2004 election.
The appellate court ordered Fieger’s lawyer, Richard Steinberg, to pay Markman’s attorney fees as a sanction for filing a complaint “devoid of any allegations, let alone facts, to support Markman’s alleged participation in a conspiracy.”
Fieger, his firm and the J.L. Barlow advertising firm brought a vindictive prosecution action against Markman, Michigan Attorney General Michael Cox, Secretary of State Terri Lynn Rand and others in the attorney general’s office, most of whom are Republican state officials.
The attorney general’s office investigated Fieger and his firm for allegedly paying the Barlow ad agency more than $450,000 for “political advertisements” at a time when a group called Citizens for Judicial Reform disclosed $457,000 in anonymous contributions for the Markman ads. Despite the ads, Markman won re-election that year.
Because the checks to the Barlow agency appeared to have been written from Fieger’s firm, the attorney general expanded his investigation of Fieger and his firm. He suspected them of committing a felony violation of state election law, which bars corporate campaign donations.
Fieger and Barlow fought back, asking a state court to halt Cox’s investigation. They then filed a federal complaint, accusing the attorney general of violating their constitutional rights.
The federal case failed, the appellate court ruled, because it involved the same issues and parties as the state suit.