As the executive and legislative branches of County government, the County Commissioners are responsible for most of the work of the County. However, County government is also served by a number of independently elected row officers, who are also vested with significant authority. That includes the authority to hire, fire and supervise employees within the office, even over the objections and direction of the County Commissioners.
Continue Reading County Row Officers, 1620 Rights, and Arbitrating Arbitrability

In January 2015, the Seventh Circuit, recognizing that it was an outlier among the Circuits in holding that pretrial detainees could not sue under the Fourth Amendment but rather instead sued under the Due Process Clause to challenge his/her detention, stated that a request by a detainee to overturn settled Circuit precedent was “better left for the Supreme Court.” In the Supreme Court’s words, it granted cert “on cue,” and on March 16, 2017, overturned the Seventh Circuit’s precedent by holding that pretrial detainees retained the right to sue under the Fourth Amendment over their detention for unlawful search and seizure. The Court held that the Fourth Amendment governs a claim for unlawful pretrial detention even beyond the start of legal process.

Continue Reading Supreme Court Reins in the Seventh Circuit and Reaffirms Fourth Amendment Protections

As if Counties could forget that Court employees are just a little different, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania sent us another reminder when the Court held that the Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law does not apply to judicial employees.

Gregory Thomas was a Juvenile Probation Officer serving with the Washington County Court of Common Pleas until October 2014, at which time he was allegedly forced to quit. Prior to his resignation, Thomas had been a participant in an investigation regarding the misappropriation of funds by the Juvenile Probation Office. During the investigation, it was revealed that the Chief of the Juvenile Probation Office had directed Thomas to email the County’s purchasing office in July 2014 to state that a mixed martial arts training session had taken place on June 6 and 7 in partial satisfaction of the state’s 40-hour annual training requirement. The email sought, and was granted, funding for the training. No such training actually occurred, and Thomas confirmed to the investigating detectives that he had not attended this training; he alleged that he had been told by the Chief Probation Officer to tell the detectives otherwise.

Continue Reading Scope of Pennsylvania’s Whistleblower Law Examined

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently announced its decision in the case of Kuren, et al. v. Luzerne County, et al., 57 MAP 2015 and 58 MAP 2015, finding that indigent defendants can be “constructively” denied counsel where underfunding of the Public Defender’s Office creates “widespread, systematic deficiencies” that “deprive indigent defendants of the traditional

For government employers, disciplining and terminating employees can be especially difficult. Not only does the public employer face the same challenges in complying with the standard alphabet soup of employment laws that private employers do, including the ADA, ADEA, FMLA, Title VII, etc., they also have the complicated task of considering the application of an