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St. Paul, Minn, - The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota filed a brief in a case regarding prosecutorial immunity. The case, Stresemann d/b/a Affiliated Counseling Center, LLC v. Jesson et al., involves extending prosecutorial immunity to non-prosecutors who are involved in the investigation stage of a case. The ACLU-MN argues that during the investigation stage of a case no one should have absolute immunity from monetary damages for their misconduct. The case is currently before the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Prosecutorial immunity typically protects a prosecutor from being sued for actions taken during the course of the filing and prosecution of a criminal case. This is to prevent them from being sued by defendants for something like malicious prosecution merely because they were trying their best to obtain a conviction. In this case it is being used to defend the actions of an investigator, Catherine Morton-Peters, for the Medical Fraud Control Unit of the Office of the Attorney General. During the course of an investigation of the Affiliated Counseling Center, Morton-Peters allegedly seized all of ACC's patient files, regardless of whether those files related to patients receiving Medicaid or not. After the seizure of ACC's patient files, Morton-Peters allegedly lost or destroyed patient files that were unrelated to the investigation. ACC sued Morton-Peters and the Commissioner of the Department of Human Services, Lucinda Jesson, alleging unreasonable seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment and asked for monetary damages for the loss and destruction of their patient files.

The ACLU-MN argues two key points in their brief:

  • Prosecutorial immunity should not be extended to investigating officials, (in this case Morton-Peters was merely an investigator, not a prosecutor) because this is contrary to the common law rule that states prosecutorial immunity is tied to filing or maintaining criminal charges.
  • Prosecutors should not have absolute immunity for their actions during the investigative stage of a case.

"This case is troubling because if prosecutorial immunity was to be extended it would make it harder for victims to win a case against a prosecutor or investigator if they violated an individual's constitutional rights," stated Charles Samuelson. "Imagine if a police officer searched a house without a warrant while they were investing a case. If the individual wanted to sue because of the wrongful search, the police officer could argue that they have prosecutorial immunity."

Cooperating attorneys in the case are: Richard Landon of Gray, Plant, Mooty, Mooty and Bennett, P.A. and Teresa Nelson of the ACLU-MN. 

Read the brief