Saturday, July 12, 2014

Attorneys seek dismissal of wiretapping case

Luzerne County cannot be sued under state’s Wiretap Act, chief solicitor argues.

July 04. 2013 12:26AM

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WILKES-BARRE — A lawsuit filed against Luzerne County and Controller Walter Griffith arising from an allegation of illegally recorded conversations should be thrown out, attorneys representing them said in court papers filed Tuesday.

Attorneys Tom Marsilio and Larry Kansky, who have been appointed to represent Griffith, said in a response to the lawsuit, originally filed in January, that Y. Judd Shoval had no “expectation of privacy” when speaking with Griffith.

The suit was filed by Shoval, a member of the board of CityVest, a nonprofit group that sought to revitalize the former Hotel Sterling, where he alleges Griffith recorded a March 29 telephone conversation without Shoval’s knowledge or consent. Shoval seeks damages for violation of the state wiretap law and invasion of privacy.

Shoval’s claims in the suit, Marsilio and Kansky said, are barred because “(Shoval) and/or his agent consented to any purported recording.”

County Chief Solicitor David Pedri said in his filing Shoval’s complaint should be thrown out because the county is not a person and cannot be sued under the Wiretap Act. Pedri also wrote that if Griffith’s actions were illegal, “then (Shoval’s) claims against (Luzerne County) are barred,” and that Shoval had no expectation of privacy when speaking with Griffith.

A Luzerne County judge recently ruled in June the lawsuit would not be dismissed at the county’s request.

“If (the county’s) reasoning prevails, an employee of a county and maybe other government entities, would not be liable for his/her violating the Wiretapping Act,” Senior Judge Charles Brown wrote. “This is unacceptable.”

Pedri previously has said the county is not paying for Griffith’s criminal defense, after Griffith was charged criminally with felony wiretapping charges.

Griffith is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on July 17 before District Judge Martin Kane on three felony charges of interception of communications.

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