Cole County Circuit Judge Says ALJs to Stay on the Job until Trial

Missouri Lawyers Weekly – Copyright 2009 Dolan Media Newswires
By Jason Rosenbaum

A Cole County circuit judge has issued a preliminary injunction that prevents three administrative law judges from being forced out.

Henry Herschel, Matthew Murphy and John Tackes sued in June to prevent Gov. Jay Nixon’s administration from dismissing them. While Nixon said they were let go for budgetary reasons, an attorney for the judges says the move violated statutes that lay out a specific dismissal process.

Judge Jon Beetem issued a temporary restraining order late last month, a move that prevented the judges from leaving their positions for 15 days.

In a ruling issued Thursday, Beetem granted the injunction, which “shall remain in effect until a full adjudication of Plaintiffs’ claims on the merits or until further order of this Court.”

“The Court has weighed Plaintiffs’ showing of their probability of success on the merits, the threat of irreparable harm to Plaintiffs absent the injunction, the balance between this harm to Plaintiffs and the injury that the injunction’s issuance would inflict on other interested parties, including Defendants and the public interest,” Beetem wrote. “The Court also finds that Plaintiffs have no adequate remedy at law.”

Beetem then wrote that the defendants – which include Nixon, his chief of staff and the chiefs of the Division of Workers’ Compensation and the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations – are barred from terminating the three men’s appointments or engaging in “any retaliatory actions.”

John Comerford, an attorney for the three judges, said in an e-mailed statement he was “very pleased” with Beetem’s order.

“My clients are looking forward to continuing to serve the public as administrative law judges,” said Comerford.

Nanci Gonder, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Chris Koster, declined to comment.

Beetem scheduled a case review for 11 a.m. on July 22.

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