The five members of the Carroll County Narcotics Task Force can refuse to make deals with anyone with whom they don't want to work, a Circuit Court judge has ruled.
The ruling came as Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. dismissed Westminster attorney Stephen P. Bourexis' $10.5 million lawsuit against the drug enforcement group.
Judge Beck ruled, in an opinion filed Wednesday, that the task force "has full discretion" to decide whether or not to plea-bargain with any defendant or defense attorney.
The task force and county prosecutors can "deem a particular criminal defendant untrustworthy-by-association and choose not to enter plea negotiations," the judge said in his decision.
Mr. Bourexis is a prominent defense attorney in Carroll courts and has a large drug-defendant clientele.
Mr. Bourexis filed his lawsuit in May.
In it he contended that he and his clients are blackballed from becoming informants or entering plea negotiations with the task force.
The judge, in granting the task force's motion for a dismissal, said, "No one has a legal right or property interest in negotiating plea agreements."
The policy of refusing to work with Mr. Bourexis' clients came to light during a criminal trial earlier this year.
Two task force officers testified about the policy.
One of the two, Trooper First Class Robert Heuisler, testified that was "common knowledge" among task force members that "we're not working with anyone who is represented by you, Mr. Bourexis."
Trooper Heuisler and others said that they didn't trust the attorney to make plea deals that would benefit the task force.
Mr. Bourexis argued in a Sept. 18 hearing that the task force's policy has hurt his reputation and could have an adverse effect on his income.
He also claimed that task force officers were interfering with his clients' rights to be represented by him.
"I have had clients tell me they would not work with me now," Mr. Bourexis testified.
According to court testimony, he had not been able to calculate just how much of his $200,000-a-year practice has been hurt by the task force's policy.
Judith S. Stainbrook -- his law partner and attorney in the suit -- said that Judge Beck's decision was not unexpected because the duo has argued unsuccessfully for years that the task force is an illegal entity.
"The judge is giving the task force carte blanche because they have a prosecutor on board," Ms. Stainbrook said.
Assistant State's Attorney Barton F. Walker III, the task force coordinator, could not be reached for comment on the court's decision.