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GOLDBERG CASE Federal judge tosses out suit



Published: Wed, August 29, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The judge and deputies are protected by law from being sued, the ruling said.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Richard Goldberg's family asked for $21 million in damages for what it said was an illegal search and seizure of its property last year.

A federal judge has ruled the family will get nothing.

Goldberg's wife, Dorothy, filed a lawsuit on behalf of herself, two minor daughters and four adult children earlier this year in U.S. District Court, Akron.

Named as defendants were Judge Timothy P. Maloney of Mahoning County Probate Court and 16 individuals, mostly police officers, from Mahoning and Trumbull counties.

Here's the ruling: U.S. District Court Judge David D. Dowd Jr. dismissed the suit this week. He ruled that federal law protects judges from being sued for money damages over their decisions. And since the officers were carrying out a judicial order, that protection extends to them.

"We think this was a good decision," said Thomas Michaels, assistant Mahoning County prosecutor. "The law is very clear that police officers are not liable for merely complying with what appears to be a legitimate court order."

The prosecutor's office represented only the police officers. Judge Maloney, who could not be reached to comment, was represented by a separate attorney hired by his bond insurance company.

At issue was a search and seizure authorized by Judge Maloney and carried out by the officers in June 2000 at the Goldbergs' home in Liberty, a warehouse in Girard and a warehouse in Youngstown used by the children.

Background: Goldberg, a former medical malpractice lawyer, is serving a federal prison sentence for bilking clients out of millions of dollars due them for lawsuit settlements. Prosecutors said he pocketed the money and used it to finance a lavish lifestyle.

Judge Maloney ordered the search and seizure because he wanted to find items that Goldberg might have bought with the ill-gotten money. Some items were confiscated and were to be sold to provide money for Goldberg's victims.

The inventory was later returned to the family because the 7th District Court of Appeals ruled that Judge Maloney had the authority to order the search, but the way he went about it violated the family's constitutional rights.

The federal lawsuit was filed about a week after the search, with the Goldberg family alleging that, among other things, officers changed the locks on the buildings in Girard and Youngstown, preventing the Goldbergs from having access to their own buildings.

The Goldbergs' attorney, Michael D. Rossi of Warren, said he had not seen the ruling, so he was not sure whether he will appeal.

"Judicial immunity is a hard defense to overcome," he said.

bjackson@vindy.com




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