ST. LOUIS — A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit filed by St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner claiming that a police union, a special prosecutor who investigated her and a resident who sued her were involved in a “racially motivated conspiracy.”
U.S. District Judge John Ross wrote in his 19-page opinion that Gardner’s 32-page lawsuit “can best be described as a conglomeration of unrelated claims and conclusory statements supported by very few facts, which do not plead any recognizable cause of action.”
Roy Austin Jr., a Gardner lawyer, said in a statement that, “Nothing about today’s court ruling changes the underlying merit of this case. Kimberly Gardner has been viciously attacked by the coordinated powerful few simply because she is a Black woman reforming the criminal justice system so that all people in the city of St. Louis are treated fairly.”
“We will continue to fight on behalf of Ms. Gardner until the truth of this conspiracy is brought to light,” Austin said.
St. Louis City Counselor Michael Garvin said the city was “pleased with the result” after the dismissal.
Gardner long has positioned herself as a criminal justice reformer. She won a decisive election victory in 2016, becoming the city’s first Black circuit attorney after promising to build greater trust between the criminal justice system and the community, increase diversity in the prosecutor’s office and conduct independent investigations of police shootings.
But her relationship with police and the St. Louis Police Officers Association soured.
Her prosecution of then-Gov. Eric Greitens in 2018 ended in the dismissal of the case and Greitens’ resignation. It also led to accusations and investigations of lawyers for both Gardner and Greitens, and a criminal case against Gardner’s private investigator.
Gardner filed her suit in January, citing the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act. The lawsuit accused “entrenched interests” in St. Louis of trying to thwart her reform efforts “through a broad campaign of collusive conduct, including the unprecedented appointment of an ethically conflicted Special Prosecutor to investigate the activities of Gardner’s office and a patently overbroad and unconstitutional ransacking of the office’s electronic files.”
It said the police union and its business manager, Jeff Roorda, were harassing and intimidating her, and the special prosecutor and city officials were trying to silence her and remove her from office.
The special prosecutor, Gerard Carmody, was appointed to investigate former FBI agent William Don Tisaby, hired by Gardner to investigate Greitens.
Tisaby is now facing six counts of perjury and one count of evidence tampering for allegedly lying in depositions.
Gardner’s suit also faults a lawsuit filed by a retired St. Louis police officer, Charles Lane, seeking to block payments of public money for her private attorneys.
In May, Gardner’s office was barred by a St. Louis judge from paying Austin’s Washington, D.C., law firm.
Ross’ order Wednesday says Gardner’s suit lacked sufficient facts and did not “allege with particularity and specifically demonstrate with material facts that the defendants reached an agreement” to conspire against her.
“Gardner presents no specific material facts, circumstantial or otherwise, to show that Defendants acted with each other for the purpose of depriving her — or anyone else — of a constitutional right to equal protection. Her complaint is nothing more than a compilation of personal slights — none of which rise to a legal cause of action,” Ross wrote.
The judge determined that “Roorda often publicly criticizes Gardner, but that does not mean he is violating her civil rights. Likewise, the fact that the SLPOA has criticized Gardner publicly or taken actions she disagreed with does not establish, in any way, interference with her civil rights. “
He said Carmody and his son and daughter, both of whom are lawyers also involved in the investigation, have prosecutorial immunity for actions while performing their official duties, and Gardner’s claim that they violated her right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures also failed “because she has no personal, reasonable expectation of privacy in the server and electronic files of the Circuit Attorney’s Office.”
“Gardner is an elected public official and the office of the Circuit Attorney is a public office,” he said, also citing a state judge’s rejection of “numerous” legal challenges by Gardner to the search.
Lane said Wednesday that he’s relieved.
“Well I think it kind of appears that this started out as an act of vindictiveness and I’m glad to see it got thrown out,” Lane said. “I don’t think there was any real cause to file it.”
Roorda and the Carmodys could not be reached for comment.