Former attorney Pamela Van Buren has lost her seven-year-old effort to force more than $300,000 from the 19th Judicial District Attorney’s Office and a Baton Rouge physician she accused of malicious prosecution.
Van Buren’s attorneys did not respond Friday to telephone and email requests for comment and a statement as to whether an appeal will be filed in the case ruled by Chief U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson.
“We’re very pleased with the result and the federal jury’s verdict,” Mark Dumaine, chief of administration at the District Attorney’s Office, said Friday.
“Their actions mean that this office will not have to bear an expense that would, quite frankly, have been difficult to meet, given our current finances,” Dumaine added. “We’re hopeful that this will discourage future lawsuits against the District Attorney’s Office.”
Van Buren, 64, alleged Dr. Stephanie Cave unfairly turned her bounced check for $2,862 over to the District Attorney’s Office for collection in late 2002. The former attorney also alleged that prosecutors had no right to file criminal charges against her.
At her criminal trial in January 2004, state District Judge Louis Daniel found Van Buren innocent of passing a worthless check to Cave. Van Buren then filed her civil suit in federal court in March 2004.
But a federal jury of six women and one man ruled Thursday night that Van Buren failed to prove her case against the defendants.
Earlier, Van Buren attorney Glen R. Petersen argued she should not have been arrested because her warrant was not issued on the basis of a sworn statement. Petersen also alleged Cave reneged on a promise to hold the worthless check indefinitely.
“From the day of (Van Buren’s) illegal arrest in March 2003, to her (criminal) trial was more than 10 months,” Petersen said.
“She suffered,” Petersen said. He then asked the jury for an award of $300,000 plus payment of an unspecified amount of punitive damages.
“It’s not a crime to write an insufficient funds check,” argued Van Buren attorney Michael R. Davis. “It’s not.”
Brent E. Kinchen, attorney for Cave, told jurors the physician “agreed to hold a check for a week.”
Kinchen said the $2,862 was for Van Buren’s medical tests. He added that Cave funded those tests with her credit card. He said Cave waited more than nine months to turn the check over to prosecutors.
“No one has ever … reimbursed Dr. Cave one penny,” Kinchen added.
The District Attorney’s Office handled the case properly, attorney Daniel J. Balhoff told jurors.
As to the statements in the warrant that resulted in Van Buren’s arrest, Balhoff said they were accurate.
“Those statements are true,” Balhoff said. “That’s what matters.”
Court records show the District Attorney’s Office once offered Van Buren $20,000 to settle the case. Cave also offered Van Buren $20,000 to settle. Van Buren demanded $200,000.