An attorney is suing a suburban Philadelphia police officer over a trespass
citation the defendant issued to the plaintiff in connection with the lawyer’s visit to Valley Forge Military Academy relating to a case on which he was working.
J. Michael Considine, Jr., who works out of a law office in downtown Philadelphia, filed a federal complaint on Dec. 12 against Radnor Township Police Officer Jonathan J. Jagodinski over a citation the plaintiff was issued two years prior for defiant trespass.
Considine was initially found guilty of the summary offense in magisterial district court, but a Delaware County Common Pleas Court judge later overturned the lower court’s ruling.
The citation arose out of a visit Considine paid to Valley Forge Military Academy on Dec. 12, 2011, in connection with his representation of Jan and Robert Neubauer, the grandparents of a student who was dismissed from the school for unspecified reasons.
Considine went to the school to interview a man who allegedly witnessed the student’s dismissal, the record shows.
That person and another witness willingly spoke to the plaintiff during his visit after which Considine left his business card and then exited the premises.
Staff from Valley Forge Military Academy subsequently spoke to the first witness and then called the police, informing them of the plaintiff’s unannounced visit to the school.
Jagodinski, the Radnor police officer, called Considine on Dec. 13, 2011, to say the plaintiff was never allowed to return to the school, “or words to that affect,” and stating that Considine would receive a summary citation for defiant trespass.
The attorney maintains that when he was on the school’s campus, he saw no no trespassing signs or postings that “authorization or other conditions needed to be met to go onto the campus or speak to anyone,” the complaint states.
Furthermore, nobody told Considine to leave the campus and no one refused to speak to the plaintiff during his visit, the suit says.
“At no time did Plaintiff attempt to compel statements out of the witnesses nor did they express any apprehension or unwillingness to speak,” the complaint reads. “They willingly spoke to him. No one refused to speak or asked him not to ask questions.”
A hearing on the summary citation was rescheduled twice because Jagodinski, the police officer, failed to appear, the record shows, although Considine was ultimately found guilty of the violation.
The plaintiff, however, won on appeal to Common Pleas Court, with a trial judge dismissing the citation against the lawyer.
The lawsuit says that Considine’s appearance at Valley Forge Military Academy was for a legitimate business purpose and those he interviewed were “willing speakers.”
In his lawsuit, Considine claims that Jagodinski never attempted to speak with the plaintiff prior to deciding to issue him a citation and that the officer made no attempt to determine if anyone ever told Considine to leave the premises.
“Defendant made no attempt to determine if there were signs posted indicating ‘no trespassing’ or that permission was required to enter onto the campus before issuing a citation to Plaintiff,” the lawsuit states.
Jagodinski knew the plaintiff was an attorney, since he had been handed the man’s business card by a school representative, according to the complaint.
The officer, the suit alleges, “issued the citation in retaliation for and in a deliberate attempt to punish Plaintiff for and intimidate him into not conducting any further investigation into a matter involving VFMA and to keep him from obtaining information from willing witnesses,” in the underlying matter involving the dismissed student.
The lawsuit accuses Jagodinski of violating the plaintiff’s First Amendment rights.
The suit also contains a count of malicious prosecution.
Considine seeks more than $75,000 in damages, plus costs and attorney’s fees.
The federal case number is 2:13-cv-07263-PD.