Judge blocks D.C. attorney firings

Chris Rizo Jun. 21, 2008, 11:43am

Peter Nickles

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline)-A judge this week blocked a linchpin of interim Washington, D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles' plan to overhaul his office.

Nickles has sought to fire seven attorneys from his office, but Washington Superior Court Judge Melvin Wright said that the termination letters sent to the employees were improper since they were not given notice.

The restraining order preventing the ousters remains in effect until Thursday, when Judge Jennifer Anderson will hear arguments from both sides in the case.

Nickles in May informed 11 employees in his office that they would be dismissed amid performance concerns. He has also cited a$3 million deficit in its fiscal 2009 budget as part of the reason for their dismissals.

Nickles, who took office in December, is aiming to transform the attorney general's office into a "first-rate law firm" with "strong, young, able stars," he has said.

The District's AG's office is the seventh largest in the nation, with 750 employees and a $90 million budget.

The judge said in his ruling that the termination letters were improper because they cited budget concerns as a factor in the terminations, but layoffs are subject to a collective bargaining agreement.

Under that agreement, managers must give employees notice that they have been performing poorly and give them a chance to improve their work quality.

Nickles said his decision to terminate the lawyers he was action on the recommendation of his chief deputies who said the attorneys' work was not satisfactory.

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo by e-mail at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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