Court master sues to regain her position She says she was fired unfairly after 3 months

February 13, 1992|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Staff Writer

A former juvenile court master for Baltimore Circuit Court has filed a lawsuit to regain the job she claims she was wrongly dismissed from.

A lawsuit filed by former juvenile master Sharon D. Smith alleges that Administrative Judge Joseph H. H. Kaplan and Judge David B. Mitchell, dismissed her in October without probable cause and without the consent of the majority of the 25 judges who appointed her.

Ms. Smith wants her job back, along with about $12,000 in lost wages and other benefits. Her attorney, Edward Smith Jr., said his client's reputation has been slighted, too.

The mayor, the City Council, the state of Maryland and Baltimore Circuit Court were named as defendants in the lawsuit.

The case has been assigned outside the city's jurisdiction to Baltimore County Circuit Judge John Fader. The case is still pending.

Yesterday, Judge Kaplan said: "I have no comment obviously, it's pending before a court." Judge Mitchell could not be reached for comment.

According to Ms. Smith's lawsuit, the majority of the judges appointed her juvenile master July 8. The job pays about $54,000 annually.

Three months later, Judge Mitchell asked for Ms. Smith's written resignation because he had received an "unprecedented" number of complaints about her and wanted her to "leave," the lawsuit said.

"One complaint was she didn't let somebody go to lunch," her lawyer said.

Mr. Smith said the complaints surfaced because his client wanted to reform the juvenile justice system. He said the system is a "mess" and his client made enemies by calling for changes.

"She stood out like a sore thumb and wanted people to be accountable in her courtroom, and they made complaints," he said.

Sharon Smith, then one of eight juvenile masters, said she was not told that her job was in danger until Oct. 7, the lawsuit said.

Four days later, Judge Mitchell told Ms. Smith she would not be fired and that she could keep her job until Jan. 31, at which time her performance would be re-evaluated, the lawsuit said. Meanwhile, Ms. Smith, a former prosecutor, would be allowed to prove her performance, the complaint said.

But in the middle of juvenile hearings on Oct. 21, a letter was placed on Ms. Smith's desk, informing her that she would be terminated immediately, the lawsuit said.

Ms. Smith has never resigned and has tried numerous times to regain her position, the lawsuit said.

Several weeks after her dismissal, Richard Lawlor was appointed to replace her.

Ms. Smith, meanwhile, is unemployed and caring for two children, her attorney said.

"She wants her job back," Mr. Smith said. "She would like to have her reputation back."

He said the two judges "never gave her a chance to be an adequate master."

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