Man loses $12M claim against City of Parkersburg

By Kyla Asbury | Nov 13, 2013

PARKERSBURG - A lawsuit filed against the City of Parkersburg by a man who claimed the mayor and the chief of police defamed him has been dismissed from federal court.

Parkersburg Mayor Robert Newell and Chief of Police Joseph Martin were also named as defendants in the suit. The case was heard in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.

On Nov. 5, an order granting the defendants' motion for summary judgment was granted.

"Mr. Backus now claims that he has alleged two constitutional violations... illegal retaliation for Mr. Backus' exercise of his First Amendment right to free speech and a substantive due process violation of the Fourteenth Amendment," U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin's memorandum opinion and order states.

Backus' complaint did not allege any of the elements of a retaliation claim and it has no factual basis to support them, according to the opinion.

"All the complaint contains is a conclusory statement that the defendants 'violated U.S. Privacy Law [and Mr. Backus's First, Fourth and Fourteenth] Amendment Rights when they conducted 'illegal' background checks' on him," the opinion says.

"Such conclusory statements are insufficient to state a claim upon which relief can be granted."

The defendants violated privacy laws and Backus' First, Fourth and 14th Amendment rights when they conducted background checks on him, according to a complaint initially filed June 4, 2012, in Wood Circuit Court and removed to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia at Parkersburg on July 2, 2012.

Backus claimed his First Amendment rights were also violated when Newell defamed and libeled him to the Parkersburg News and WTAP-TV 3.

Backus was seeking compensatory and punitive damages in the amount of $12 million. He was represented by Paul M. Stroebel of Stroebel & Johnson PLLC.

The defendants were represented by Johnnie E. Brown and James A. Muldoon of Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown & Poe PLLC.

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia at Parkersburg case number: 6:12-cv-02518

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