St. Louis Public Radio News
7:53 pm
Mon July 6, 2009

Three Mo. judges seek to block their own firings

Jefferson City, MO – Arguments were heard Monday in Jefferson City over the pending firings of three administrative law judges who hear Missouri worker compensation cases.

The Nixon administration is seeking the dismissals of Henry Herschel, Matthew Murphy and John Tackes as part of the budget-cutting process.

Attorney John Comerford represents the three judges. He says they cannot be fired simply based on budget cuts.

"There's a very specific statutory framework that tells you how an administrative law judge can be dismissed...they go up for a retention vote every 12 years, and they also can be dismissed by two votes of 'no confidence' by a bipartisan review committee," Comerford said.

General Counsel Ronald Holliger, arguing for the state, disagrees.

"The language (the Missouri General Assembly) put in in 1998 was to make the number of administrative law judges subject to appropriations...the language is clearly there," Holliger said.

In June, Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem issued a temporary restraining order, blocking the firings.

He'll rule on an injunction to further delay the firings at a later date.

Herschel once served as General Counsel for former Governor Matt Blunt. He left that job shortly after former staff attorney Scott Eckersley was fired. Eckersley's dismissal sparked an investigation into the deletion of state emails.