Claremore Daily Progress

May 2, 2013

Judge narrows scope of Singer lawsuit against DA, assistant

Salesha Wilken
Staff Reporter

CLAREMORE —

U.S. District Judge Gregory Frizzell has rejected a motion by District Attorney Janice Steidley and her first assistant, Bryce Lair, to dismiss a police officer’s lawsuit accusing them of violating his First Amendment rights by seeking to destroy his reputation.

But the judge dismissed those portions of Claremore detective John Singer’s suit that said Steidley and Lair also violated his 14th Amendment rights; that the court should issue a declaratory judgment for Singer, and that the defendants should be restricted by a preliminary injunction from disseminating information about his conduct as an investigator.

The multi-part order also dismissed Singer’s lawsuit request for a ruling that he did not engage in wrongful conduct while investigating cases that he would later testify about in court. Judge Frizzell said that so-called “Giglio” aspect of  the case was a criminal issue  and not appropriate to a civil complaint. 

The judge denied the motion of Steidley and Lair to dismiss Singer’s request for punitive damages should he prevail in his lawsuit. The district attorney and her assistant had argued that they were protected from any damage claims by prosecutorial immunity.

Singer filed his lawsuit against Steidley and Lair three months ago, claiming they manufactured evidence alleging he had engaged in misconduct, and then distributed it to several police chiefs, a statewide defense lawyers website and to the Claremore Daily Progress.

Steidley contended she was required to circulate information about Singer’s conduct as an investigator because a 1972 U.S. Supreme Court decision -- known as the Giglio case -- mandates prosecutors disclose information that could impeach the credibility of a police officer as a witness. 

Clark Brewster, the Tulsa attorney for Steidley and Lair, said his clients were “extremely pleased with the judge’s ruling.” He said they expected Singer’s First Amendment argument “to survive the first round motion to dismiss; the rest of the case was virtually frivolous” and that ultimately the court will dismiss the entire lawsuit.

Singer’s Tulsa attorney, Chad Neuens, said he was “pleased with the court’s decision to allow Detective Singer’s case to move forward.” 

See the full ruling at http://static.cnhi.zope.net/claremoreprogress/PDFs/Judge Frizzellruling.pdf