Montgomery County Subject of Wrongful Termination, Whistleblower Suit by former Chief Public Defender
MONTGOMERY COUNTY, PA – March 19, 2020 This week Greenblatt, Pierce, Funt and Flores LLC (GPFF), on behalf of former Montgomery County Chief Public Defender Dean Beer, sued the county for violating Beer’s First Amendment rights and his right to independence under Pennsylvania law. According to the lawsuit, the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners wrongfully terminated Beer after he filed an amicus curiae brief challenging the county’s money bail practices.
“Since the day I was hired to be the Chief Public Defender, I worked to build an office that zealously represented our clients, both inside and outside of the courtroom,” said Beer, the plaintiff. “The role of a public defender includes fighting for our clients by defending them against systemic injustice. Montgomery County’s actions effectively seek to take away our independence and make us another arm of the state. This robs the community of their only constitutionally mandated, uniquely dedicated protection.”
On February 3, 2020, Beer filed an amicus curiae brief in a 2019 case before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, exposing Montgomery County’s unlawful bail practices. The brief highlighted several examples of how the county’s bail practices left defendants poorly represented, including a breastfeeding teenage mother with a job, supportive family and no prior record was jailed over one month solely because her bail was set at $50,000 with no attorney present to speak on her behalf– an amount she could not afford. On February 26, Montgomery County fired Beer because he filed the brief.
“Dean Beer was fired for taking aim at a bail system that routinely and unjustly penalizes poor and marginalized people of color,” said Patricia V. Pierce, chair of GPFF’s employment law practice group. “A prime example is given in the brief that was filed, of a teenaged mother who was breastfeeding when arrested and an onerous amount of bail set without regard to her ability to pay at a time when she had no advocate present to speak for her. Dean is to be congratulated for trying to end such an unjust system, not fired for doing so.”
Pierce has over thirty years of experience representing individuals and groups of workers who have suffered employment discrimination and workplace harassment. She has litigated employment lawsuits and employee benefits cases in the state and federal courts in Pennsylvania, California, Delaware, Maryland, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Tennessee, and New Jersey.
Beer seeks an injunction reinstating his position as Chief Public Defender, compensation for his firing, and a contract stating any future disciplinary action may only be taken for “just cause.”
To read the full complaint filed in Beer v. Montgomery County et al, click here.
Founded in 1996 as an aggressive criminal defense law practice, Greenblatt, Pierce, Funt and Flores, LLC has grown into a full-service law firm offering individuals assistance in virtually all areas of criminal, employment, personal injury, civil rights, and family law. The firm has three offices in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Visit www.gpfflaw.com for more information.