More City Lawyers Win Restraining Order
A Superior Court judge yesterday issued a temporary restraining order blocking Interim D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles from firing seven lawyers in his office.
Judge Melvin Wright said that the termination letter sent to the employees were improper and that the firings could cause the employees irreparable harm, said Betty Grdina, a lawyer for the employees who had sued Nickles. Wright's ruling came one day after another judge blocked Nickles from firing an eighth lawyer. The restraining order will remain in effect until June 26, when Judge Jennifer Anderson will hear further testimony from both sides.
"It means Nickles can't even make a decision to terminate and he can't kick them off the payroll," Grdina said.
Last month, Nickles informed 11 employees, including a manager, eight lawyers and two support staffers, that they would be terminated. In an interview, he cited budget concerns and performance as the reasons; his department needed to save about $3.5 million, he said.
In his ruling, Wright said that the termination letters cited the budget as a factor in Nickles's decision, but that such a reduction-in-force is subject to regulations in the collective bargaining agreement with the union that represents the lawyers.
That agreement stipulates that managers must give employees notice that they have been performing poorly and give them a chance to improve. But, according to the lawyers who were fired, they were each given at least "satisfactory" performance evaluations and never told they were in danger of losing their jobs until they were fired.
Nickles disputed the judge's finding, saying he made his decision based on recommendations from his deputies regarding which employees were performing poorly. He added that 10 of the employees have appealed his decision and he is considering their appeals.
"The managers were of the view that based on performance they should be given notice of termination," Nickles said.
David A Nakamura
June 19, 2008; 6:24 PM ET
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