Judge dismisses Lehigh County DA hopeful's suit against state police
Feb 23, 2013 (The Morning Call (Allentown - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit against state police officials by a former trooper who ran unsuccessfully against Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin in his 2011 re-election campaign.
U.S. District Judge Cynthia Rufe ruled former Trooper Edward Koren failed to make an initial showing that his constitutional rights were harmed when a state police spokeswoman allegedly provided false information to The Morning Call about his discharge from the state police.
Koren's lawsuit alleges state police Commissioner Frank Noonan and spokeswoman Maria Finn, who are named as defendants, provided a reporter with false information that cast doubt about his service as a state trooper to scuttle his campaign for district attorney.
The suit noted Noonan is a political appointee of Gov. Tom Corbett, who is a close friend and political ally of Martin. Corbett and Martin are Republicans. A spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Police declined to comment Friday, and Martin said only that the resolution is appropriate.
Rufe's decision gives Koren the ability to pursue a claim in state court that Finn and Noonan engaged in willful misconduct by releasing information from Koren's personnel file. His attorney, Richard J. Orloski, did not return a phone call Friday afternoon.
Koren is also suing The Morning Call for defamation in Lehigh County Court over an October 2011 article about Koren's retirement from the state police without an honorable discharge.
In his federal lawsuit, Koren alleged that Finn and Noonan's release of allegedly false information infringed upon Koren's First Amendment right to run for elected office.
Rufe noted that to show his right to run for elected office was harmed, he must demonstrate that Finn and Noonan's conduct was enough to deter "a person of ordinary firmness" from running for political office.
Rufe noted that more is fair in a political campaign than in other contexts, and that Koren willingly engaged in the "rough and tumble" of an election and the facts he alleges would not deter most candidates. Further, she noted, that although there is a right to run for office, there is no right to be elected.
"Plaintiff ran for office unsuccessfully; a losing campaign is not a constitutional injury," she said.
Rufe also ruled that Koren's claim the state police officials infringed on his right to privacy could not be sustained because no actual information was released from his personnel file. Rufe noted Koren's claim centered on an alleged implication that he had committed "serious misconduct" because he had retired without an honorable discharge.
Koren's claim that he was deprived his right to a fair hearing because state police officials allegedly conducted a secret review of his personnel file was also dismissed. Rufe wrote that Koren had no right to due process because he had already retired from the state police.
Finally, Rufe rejected a discrimination claim alleging that he was improperly denied an honorable discharge. Such claims must be filed within two years and Koren's lawsuit came six years after he retired.
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