A former lawyer in the Delaware County Public Defender’s Office who considered himself a zealous legal advocate has lost his appeal for unemployment compensation in Commonwealth Court.
Problems began when the lawyer’s superiors demoted him from the office’s trial division to a position as an assistant trial attorney in the juvenile division. The demoted lawyer told a district judge and fellow attorneys that he had been demoted for “taking too many cases to trial.”
His boss had a different view, claiming the attorney was often ill-prepared when he appeared at trial, didn’t investigate his cases and did a poor job of communicating with prosecutors.
The lawyer’s criticisms did not sit well at the Public Defender’s Office, which terminated him following the remarks.
In requesting unemployment benefits, the lawyer claimed he was fired for exercising his First Amendment rights. Commonwealth Court disagreed, labeling the remarks “insolence” that rose to the level of “willful misconduct.”
Note: Public employees may have some First Amendment protections, but bad-mouthing one’s employer to cover forisn’t one of them.