4th Circuit Sends Claims by Former Pharmacy Owner Against Prosecutor Back to State Court

The Fourth Circuit on Monday partly affirmed and partly reversed a prior ruling on claims by a former Maryland pharmacy chain owner charged with engaging in Medicaid fraud that his prosecutors fabricated evidence to convict him and later destroyed evidence that would have exonerated him, remanding the matter to a state court.

Former owner of Pharmacare Reddy Vijay Annappareddy was accused in 2012 of billing government health care programs “for prescriptions that were never delivered,” the court said. Annappareddy ultimately had the fraud charges against him dismissed because “the government had used flawed analyses of the pharmacies’ inventory and billing practices to convict Annappareddy at trial, and then destroyed relevant evidence while a motion for retrial was pending,” the District of Maryland found.

Annappareddy subsequently filed a complaint against multiple defendants, namely those who prosecuted his case, looking to recover compensatory and punitive damages for alleged federal and state law and constitutional violations related to the alleged destruction of evidence.

The circuit court agreed with the District of Maryland’s dismissal of the plaintiff’s federal constitutional claims while reversing the judgment on whether the plaintiff’s state law claims could proceed against lead prosecutor Catherine Pascale; in effect, the circuit court found that absolute prosecutorial immunity bars the allegations against Pascale from moving forward, thus sending that question back to the state court.

In its reasoning for siding with Pascale in that she is protected by prosecutorial immunity under state law, the circuit court said the doctrine “safeguards the process, not the person,” covering only actions “intimately associated with the judicial phase of the criminal process.” The question the court had to examine, then, was whether the alleged actions were tied to the judicial phase of the proceedings, and it found that Pascale was covered.

“Because Pascale was acting in her role as advocate when she allegedly fabricated evidence for use at trial, she is shielded by absolute prosecutorial immunity,” the court said.

Paynter Law Firm and Josh Greenberg Law Firm represent the plaintiff. Kramon & Graham P.A., Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin & White, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP, Alston & Bird LLP, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, and the U.S.’s own counsel represent the various defendants.