Koster's office defends Mo. judges' firings

Chris Rizo Jul. 7, 2009, 12:11am

Chris Koster (D)

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Legal Newsline) - Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster's office is defending the firing of three administrative law judges who decide workers' compensation claims.

Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon's administration says the layoffs are necessary because of spending cuts made the state's Republican-controlled Legislature.

The attorney representing the judges, however, said the judges can only be ousted from the bench by a recommendation of a performance evaluation panel.

Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem issued a temporary restraining order last week, preventing the judges' firings from taking effect with the new fiscal year July 1.

The attorney general's office argued Monday that the 2005 state law allowing administrative judges to be removed by an evaluation panel does not preclude their removal from office for other reasons, including budget constraints.

In all, five administrative law judge positions were eliminated by the budget cuts. One judge is retiring from the bench and another did not sue to preserve his job.

The three plaintiffs in the case - Judges Henry Herschel, Matthew Murphy and John Tackes - were appointed by Republican Gov. Matt Blunt. Nixon is Missouri's former attorney general.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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