Page printed from: The Legal Intelligencer
|Suit Survives Against US Over Judge Accused of GropingMax Mitchell, The Legal Intelligencer
March 27, 2015
A federal judge has given a woman who was allegedly groped by an administrative law judge a second chance at filing a civil suit against the United States for failing to protect against the alleged assaults.
U.S. District Judge Robert D. Mariani of the Middle District of Pennsylvania on Thursday dismissed plaintiff Florence Gaffney’s suit for failure to state a claim against the government, but ultimately granted her leave to file an amended complaint. The ruling in Gaffney v. United States of America also denied the government’s attempts to toss the case on sovereign immunity grounds.
The crux of Gaffney’s case against the government is that government employees failed to protect her from the conduct of Social Security Administrative Law Judge Sridhar Boini, who allegedly fondled her breasts, made sexual gestures using his tongue and mouth, and routinely drank alcohol during work hours.
The government had argued that, following precedent regarding sovereign immunity under the Federal Tort Claims Act, it could only be held liable for failure to protect against Boini if it had learned of the judge’s conduct outside working hours.
However, Mariani held that the government’s argument stemmed from a “tortured reading” of the case law.
“It would serve no rational purpose to hold that the duty only attaches if the government foresaw danger based on actions that the individual took while ‘off the clock,’ or—even more perversely—that the government may ignore foreseeable dangers just because they happened to arise during an employee’s work time,” Mariani said.
Patrick J. Doyle Jr. of the Anzalone Law Offices, who represented Gaffney, said that he was pleased that the defendant’s motion to dismiss was denied.
“We will be filing an amended complaint to comply with the judge’s instruction,” Doyle said.
Assistant U.S. attorney J. Justin Blewitt Jr. did not immediately return a call for comment.
A fuller version of this article will be posted later when the article is completed.
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