Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Fired Public Defender Failed To Exhaust Administrative Remedies

The Maryland Court of Appeals has held that the former State Public Defender had failed to exhaust administrative remedies and dismissed her wrongful discharge action.

The firing was in the wake of a dispute between the Public Defender and its Board of Trustees over management and personnel issues in the public defender office. The Public Defender had "refused to acquiesce in the Board's demands, conyending that the Board lacked the authority to issue such edicts, their implementation would harm indigent clients, cost more money than would be saved, and violate the provisions of the Public Defender Act."

The court here held that the Public Defender had "failed to exhaust the available and primary administrative remedy provided to at-will, executive State employees..."

Judge Adkins, joined by Judge Battaglia, would dismiss on the merits:

...even the most generous inferences do not suggest that [the Public Defender]'s termination violated a clear mandate of public policy. There is simply nothing to suggest that the Board fired her for refusing to break the law or for exercising her duties as Public Defender. Rather, her termination was simply the culmination of a long-running disagreement with the Board about how to best deal with the financial crisis plauging the Office.

(Mike Frisch)


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