Town Not Liable For Prosecution Of Police Officer

Robert Grinham was a police sergeant in the Town of Easton, Massachusetts Police Department. As a result of a beating he gave a prisoner, which was witnessed by fellow police officers, he was ultimately fired. Grinham thrice appealed his termination, and lost at every level.

Grinham was indicted by a grand jury, but was acquitted by a trial jury. Grinham then sued his supervisors, claiming that they maliciously caused him to be criminally prosecuted.

The Massachusetts Court of Appeals turned away Grinham’s lawsuit. The Court noted that “Grinham’s argument fails as he cannot adequately demonstrate that the defendants initiated the criminal process without probable cause. The matter was properly referred to the district attorney’s office, which in turn, given a conflict, referred it to the Attorney General’s office. An assistant attorney general conducted an investigation and concluded that charges should be filed. It was thus not the defendants who instituted the criminal process against the plaintiff.

“The mere transmission of information to a police officer who, using his or her independent judgment, then pursues the matter and institutes criminal proceedings, has never been held sufficient to support an action for malicious prosecution. Although this case is not the more typical one of a civilian lodging a criminal complaint to the police which leads to prosecution, the principle remains the same. The officers at issue here alerted the district attorney as to the beating. The district attorney then referred it to the Attorney General’s office, which held an independent investigation and decided to institute criminal proceedings. The decision to pursue criminal prosecution rested on the independent judgment and discretion of the Attorney General. Such a scenario shields those who rightfully reported the incident from a malicious prosecution charge.”

Grinham v. Kominsky, 948 N.E.2d 919 (Mass. App.Ct. 2011).

This article appears in the September 2011 issue