St. Louis Public Radio News
5:58 pm
Tue November 23, 2010

Court says Nixon can fire administrative law judges

Jefferson City, Mo. – A ruling last year that blocked the firings of three Missouri administrative law judges has been overturned.

In 2009, Governor Jay Nixon ordered the elimination of five judge positions that hear workers' compensation claims, citing budgetary needs. But three of the judges sued, stating that they could only be removed for poor job performance or conduct, and only by a review committee or a retention vote.

Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem agreed and blocked their firings. Today, the Western District Appeals Court in Kansas City ruled that the governor can use budgetary concerns as a reason to dismiss administrative law judges.

Attorney John Commerford represents administrative law judges Henry Herschel, Matthew Murphy, and John Tackes. He says the Appeals Court ruling could have far-reaching implications.

"Under this opinion, the way we read it, the governor, with the stroke of his pen, could eliminate judge positions from every circuit around the state as long as he left one judge in each circuit," Commerford said. "It's a bad precedent."

Commerford says they'll appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court.