Thursday, June 14, 2018

Public Defender: I was Fired for Running against Judge Priester

Update: WE GOT A TAPE!!!


Attorney Bridgette Morgan claims she was fired from her Hinds County Public Defender position because she qualified to run against Hinds County Court Judge Melvin Priester, Sr.  Ms. Morgan made the allegation in lawsuit that was filed today in U.S. District Court.   The defendants are Hinds County and  Chief Public Defender Michelle Purvis Harris.

Ms. Morgan was a Hinds County Public Defender when she qualified to run against Judge Priester on May 11.   The complaint claims Michele Purvis Harris that she was being terminated effective immediately.

9. Plaintiff asked Ms. Harris to provide an explanation as to why she was being terminated, and Ms. Harris' reply was, "Well because you serve at the will and pleasure of the Public Defender. So I really don't have to give you a reason." Defendant Harris then claimed that Plaintiff was self-centered, selfish, deceitful and disrespectful.

10. After being rebuffed with no explanation and then a vague explanation, Plaintiff decided to directly ask Michele Harris if the reason for her termination was due to the fact that Plaintiff had decided to run for the position of Hinds County Court Judge.

11. Ms. Harris' reply was, "I would say that is the straw that broke the camel's back."

12. Ms. Harris directly admitted that Plaintiff's decision to run for the position of Hinds County Court Judge was the motivating factor in Plaintiff's termination.
Ms. Morgan argues her termination violated her First Amendment rights.  The complaint is posted below. 

The case is assigned to Judge Henry Wingate and Magistrate Linda Anderson.


Anonymous said...

Ruh roh, she isn't a member of the good ol' boys club. Girls need not apply.

Anonymous said...

Women ARE GIVING MEN HELL NOWADAY....Someone should do a study on the amount & what race & gender who brings lawsuits to courts.

Anonymous said...

She must be well qualified, why else would she qualify to be a public defender?????? You know it is not easy to reach such a high and respected position.

Anonymous said...

7:08; what's you position in life. Since you like to judge, maybe you should run against Preister or some other.

Anonymous said...

7:08 - I realized the 6th Amendment is not so popular on this forum, but the PD's office is extremely important to American society.

With that being said, anyone else seeing the connection between all this PD drama and Ms. Harris? I can't recall things like this happening before she entered the picture.

Nice appointment, Judge Green.

Anonymous said...

I've heard recently that well paid, experienced, and well credentialized criminal defense lawyers are having pangs of conscience and are considering public defense. Even they are becoming sick of the hypocrisy.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Preister needs a home educated opponent. Maybe he's sold out for power. Maybe he's older relatives that have done the same? There was a term in old South for that. Recusal is easy in such a small state.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Is she certified? Asking for a friend.

Anonymous said...

I see no point in criticizing the office of Public Defender or those who work in that arena. That's rather childish.

If it is in fact true that these employees 'serve at the will and pleasure' of the Public Defender and they have no protection or right to redress upon termination, then the termination will be upheld. Under the At Will arrangement, employees can be terminated "for any reason or no reason at all" as long as the reason does not violate a specific employment law or regulation. Freedom of speech is not one of those protected areas.

I'm no attorney (a high and respected position), but I'm not buying the argument that her freedom of speech rights were violated. But maybe they were. And if they were, she will prevail since the employer that fired her is effectively 'the government'. And if her personnel file contains no documentation as to her 'other issues' and there is no evidence of her other 'shortcomings', she might be headed to the bank.

Skirts and Pigmentation Aside.. said...

Step Right Up - Get A Look At This Red Herring!

"Women ARE GIVING MEN HELL NOWADAY....Someone should do a study on the amount & what race & gender who brings lawsuits to courts."

This situation and lawsuit have absolutely nothing to do with sex or race. All the parties could be a different race and sex and the issue before the court would be identical.

Louis LeFleur said...

Go, "girl"!

Bridgette Morgan

Anonymous said...

Many people dislike public defenders and criminal defense attorneys... until they need one.

Anonymous said...

Hinds County, Jackson, the "Preisters", wonder what this one family costs the city of Jackson, Hinds County, the state of Mississippi every year. City Council seat, County Court Judge seat, an attorney wife and mother getting business from it all. Most dysfunctional, nepotistic area of the country. Next MS Governor and Legislature will have to make the decision to take over at least the city of Jackson, disband it's government, and appoint a financial control manager for the city and school system to salvage anything at all.

Anonymous said...

If she was a will and pleasure appointee, does this terminated lawyer have any chance of recourse? Clearly playing political games here, but is political games wrongful termination?

Anonymous said...

To add to 8:54am let's not forget that they protected Melton and Blunston all those years, both of whom ruined Jackson and Hinds County - in addition to countless individuals. The Priesters have preyed on Jackson for YEARS and have nothing to show but cronyism and grift.

Anonymous said...

9:39 is right. The keys words are "Will and Pleasure". Surely any attorney understands those words.

Anonymous said...

Bridgette is one tough woman. Gotta love her!

Anonymous said...

This tape, presumably recorded by Morgan, does not help her case, it hurts her case and it certainly puts out there that Harris believes Morgan is deceitful, self-centered, selfish, and disrespectful, all reasons to terminate Morgan with or without running for office. This is not a first amendment issue. Having just listened to the tape, I find it unbelievable that Morgan would not have sat down with her boss prior to signing up to run for any office and discussing how her actions would affect not only her work, but the overall business of the office. When you work for any entity in lieu of being self-employed, you always have to consider how your public actions affect your employer... that is common sense. But again, Harris told Her that her running for office was not the reason for her termination, it was merely a culmination of things, two of which are deceit and disrespect, behavior that no employer should put up with.

Anonymous said...

@ 11:57 am. Thank you, Melvin, for your input. The culmination of things crosses over into retaliation which is a big FSLA no-no. If you have a bad employee follow your policies and move them on. If you aren't doing that or haven't gotten there, retaliating is the last thing you should do.

Anonymous said...

8:54 if City of Jackson is taken over I hope it is not the Ms Legislature which is the
Worst financial manager and most inbread body of government in our state (except for Pelehatchie).

Anonymous said...

If she had been fired for criticizing the sitting judge, she'd have a fist amendment case. Running for office is not an exercise of first amendment rights. In a will and pleasure employment relationship, I can fire you for wearing a green skirt on Wednesdays or for running for office if I sense that your job-search aspirations are in conflict with the performance I expect of you on the job.

An employer would be a fool to engage in a discussion of politics, office holders or free speech issues beyond the event of termination. Keep it simple. And, no, in Mississippi there is no requirement that you give a reason for termination.

Anonymous said...

11:57 am I'm not Melvin, but I do know that unless a law firm wants to have political clout to generate government business and is willing to lose billable hours to do it, they want their partners and associates to be working on cases or generating new clients compatible with their practice.

A PD should be overwhelmed with cases. IF she's out campaigning or taking political calls, that means her clients are not getting served.

That is sufficient grounds for dismissal.

By the way, I am a woman. I would point out to the misogynists who weighed in, that both our genders are riddled with idiots. You old boys would be the posters for the idiots in her gender just as this woman is in my gender.

Kingfish said...

Ask Victor Mason how saying he would run for Sheriff worked out at HCSO for him?

Anonymous said...

She gets fired, yet Minka publishes hate speech and still has a job. Hmm

Anonymous said...

I’m guessing she secretly recorded the conversation? Perspective employers will love that. I’m sure firms and other employers will be clamoring to hire someone who secretly records their employer. Where is the rest of the tape?

Anonymous said...

She can and will draw unemployment insurance (if she bothers to file), but otherwise has no recourse. In the meantime, however, if she seeks psychiatric counseling and then files a wrongful termination lawsuit, she might prevail. Otherwise, there's no such thing as 'wrongful termination' in Mississippi.

Anonymous said...

In the past 35 years, the federal government has passed several laws that protect employees and define specific causes for wrongful termination. Under these laws, an employer cannot dismiss an employee on the basis of race, religion, sex, age, national origin, disability, or for engaging in union activities. The law considers such actions as discriminatory and wrongful termination. If you believe you lost your job for any of these reasons, you need to contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or, in the case of union activities, the National Labor Relations Board as quickly as possible to preserve your rights.

A whistle blower, an individual who reports wrong doing on the employer's part, does have some job protection under the law. The Mississippi Supreme Court has recently created a public policy exception to the employment-at-will doctrine to protect whistle blowers. The federal Whistle Blowers Protection Act of 1989, Fair Labor Standards Act and Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 also offer a degree of protection for employees who report violations of certain statutes. This includes Mississippi folks.

Anonymous said...

'...the past 35 years'? Notice these dates. And none of these laws referred to wrongful termination. They were classified as illegal, not wrongful.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA), which protects men and women who perform substantially equal work in the same establishment from sex-based wage discrimination.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), which protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older.

The ADA did come along later - 1990.

The National Labor Relations Act, which, in part, protects employment rights in union related situations, is older than dirt itself.

Whistle-blower protections are thin and exclude most employment situations.

But, all your copy and paste is appreciated 6/29.

Unknown said...

The last time I checked, the Hinds County Public Defenders Office belong to the people of Hinds County, the tax payers. Firing her was clearly a political move to protect the career politician Priester who should have retired years ago. I hope Morgan is successful in kicking his ass at the ballot box and in court. And, I hope someone else will kick his phony, pretentious, deceitful, lying son out of the City Council seat.

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