A lawsuit against Episcopal priest Robert H. Malm, canonically resident in the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, has gone to the Virginia Supreme Court on interlocutory appeal.
Filed pro se by retired attorney Eric J. Bonetti, the suit alleges that Malm engaged in tortious abuse of process by filing false police reports and a request for a protective order for an improper purpose, which Bonetti alleges was to silence his criticism of Malm’s conduct. The suit also alleges the other aspect of abuse of process — actions improper in the ordinary course of litigation — including concealing evidence adverse to Malm; committing perjury during discovery; attempting to depose Bonetti’s late mother, then terminally ill and unable to comply without prior leave of court, as required by relevant state law; repeated witness tampering; engaging in dilatory and oppressive discovery; making knowingly false statements of law and fact to the court; using inflammatory and unprofessional language in legal pleadings, and more.
The interlocutory appeal was filed after Alexandria Circuit Judge James C. Clark refused to grant an order to compel discovery, despite allegedly myriad evasive responses by Malm to interrogatories. These include Malm’s alleged refusal to provide specifics to support his claim, made in writing, under oath, while advised by church legal counsel Jeffery Chiow, that Bonetti’s late mother or someone purporting to be her contacted Malm repeatedly. Similarly, in another interrogatory, Malm purportedly claims he can’t answer questions about a document adverse to him, concealed during discovery, in which he claims that the plaintiff embezzled from a previous employer, on the basis that only his attorney has a copy.
Moreover, Judge Clark refused to enjoin Malm from allegedly tampering with witnesses, even after one emailed the court asking that Malm be stopped from contacting her. Similarly, he refused to enjoin Malm from contacting or threatening the plaintiff, who alleges that, on one occasion, Malm drove up to him in a blue Ford Explorer, carefully sized up the situation, emerged from the vehicle, and began screaming and threatening the plaintiff, frightening nearby onlookers and sending them running for safety.
In his pleadings before the Virginia Supreme Court, Bonetti asserts that he has repeatedly asked Malm’s current attorney, Wayne Cyron, to correct Malm’s allegedly perjurious testimony pursuant to disciplinary rule 3.3 (Candor to the Tribunal), but has been ignored.
“Both the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts have said in writing that they will not address Malm’s perjury,” says Bonetti. “As a result, my only option is litigation. Unfortunately, Judge Clark’s conduct from the bench appears to be arbitrary and capricious, and biased in favor of the defendant. I have therefore asked for a new judge.
“I am also profoundly troubled by Mr. Cyron’s continued efforts to proffer facially perjurious testimony, and to defend it in court. As an officer of the court, and consistent with his obligations of candor to the tribunal, truthfulness in communication, and fairness to the opposing party, Mr. Cyron cannot knowingly offer this testimony. Yet Mr Cyron not only defends this conduct, he even lied to the court, claiming that I have blogged under the name of various siblings in conjunction with this case. That’s profoundly offensive, as I have none, and my only brother died 27 years ago almost to the day of Mr. Cyron’s fabrication. I have asked Mr. Cyron in writing for a retraction, but none has been forthcoming.”
Bonetti is part of the first same-sex couple married at Grace Church and regularly protests outside church services.
No date has been set for the Virginia Supreme Court to hear the case.