Federal judge dismisses lawsuit over legal advice
A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by a Utah Air National Guard member who said bad legal advice cost him a promotion.
In a ruling issued Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby said Mark Viau has no legal grounds to bring federal civil rights against the Utah Air National Guard, or legal malpractice and negligent employment claims against the state of Utah. Viau initially filed his lawsuit in state court and then transferred it to federal court, allowing Shelby to rule on both issues.
Shelby said that the Utah Governmental Immunity Act barred Viau's claims against the state and any of its entities. In August, Shelby dismissed the United States as a defendant.
The promotion became an issue due to a criminal case involving Viau.
A federal grand jury in 2008 charged Viau with 17 counts of making false statements, witness tampering, bank fraud and mail fraud while working as a special agent with the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The indictment alleged Viau lied on disclosure forms about real estate businesses he had on the side, violated terms of a mortgage and sought reimbursement for faulty bullet-proof vest he never purchased.
Viau pleaded guilty to a single felony count of mail fraud in 2011 and was sentenced to 36 months probation and ordered to pay nearly $4,000 in restitution. That same year, he was denied promotion from captain to major.
Viau alleged in his lawsuit that an attorney for the Utah Air National Guard mistakenly told him his career would not be affected by pleading guilty to a felony in a criminal case and asserted he would not have accepted the plea deal otherwise.