Judge tosses suit against Morse, says accuser lied
Pontiac — A $10 million lawsuit brought against attorney Mike Morse was dismissed Wednesday by an Oakland Circuit Court judge who said the alleged victim perjured herself.
The ruling is not only a legal rarity but the latest wrinkle in the very public legal battle between two of Michigan's more well-known attorneys, both familiar to anyone who has seen their respective TV commercials advertising their legal services.
Renee Swain had sought $10 million in damages from Morse on allegations he molested her at a restaurant in 2017. Morse's attorney, Deborah Gordon, had argued the complaint was a "sham" designed by Swain and her attorney, Geoffrey Fieger, to "smear and harass" Morse, because he was viewed as a competitor for clients.
"From the beginning, we said there was nothing to the complaint and as we got into it, including taking depositions from Swain, it was clear we were right and the judge agrees," said Gordon.
"But perhaps worst, it appears Fieger did not do anything to determine whether she was lying because he was so eager to hold a live streaming press conference that was riddled with histrionics and false statements ... then when he later learned the claims were false, his firm was more interested in blocking our efforts to get bank records that would prove our defense rather than disclosing that to the court," she said.
"I have a duty to file a complaint against him with the Attorney Grievance Commission and also plan to make a criminal complaint against Swain for committing perjury," Gordon said.
Fieger could not be immediately reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.
His client, Swain, had alleged that she and Morse were taking "selfie" photos inside an Oakland County restaurant when the lawyer grabbed her breast.
Gordon detailed how Swain was asked at her deposition on Jan. 5, 2018, if she had been receiving payments each month, at first for $10,000 and then $5,000, from a male friend, Ken, and that the payments had stopped the same month she sued Morse, providing a motive for her to set him up to obtain money.
In an eight-page opinion released Wednesday, Judge Phyllis McMillen explained her reasons for dismissing the lawsuit, saying Swain lied in an effort to manipulate the legal system.
“At her deposition, Plaintiff (Swain) hid the fact that for 27 months she had been receiving monthly deposits into her bank account from Ken," the judge said, adding Swain "blatantly lied and her lies were an attempt to manipulate the legal process… and tamper with the administration of justice …"
"This court has a ‘fundamental interest in protecting its own integrity and that of the judicial process.’”
Gordon said: "We subpoenaed her bank records that showed she had been receiving large amounts but Fieger's firm sought to keep the truth from the court, until they met with Ken and he confirmed he made the deposits into Swain's bank account, which totaled about $291,500.
"The next day, Fieger’s firm filed an 'emergency motion' to quash the bank subpoena, and others, stating that “[t]here is no relevant basis for these subpoenas … [they] are a continued effort … to harass and intimidate Ms. Swain...” Gordon said.
McMillen ordered that the records be produced and said they proved the perjury "and the Fieger firm was complicit in the attempt to cover it up."
Perjury is defined under Michigan law as occurring when any person who takes an oath "willfully swears falsely in regard to any matter or thing respecting which the oath is authorized or required ..."
Perjury is a felony punishable by imprisonment by not more than 15 years.
Under the State Bar of Michigan ethics rules, an attorney shall not knowingly offer evidence that the lawyer knows to be false, and if it's later determined to be false, take "reasonable remedial measures, including, if necessary, disclosure to the (court)."
Gordon noted that the Swain lawsuit is the fourth of five cases Fieger filed against Morse that have now been dismissed by the courts on legal grounds.