December 7, 2021


Beyond law

Lawyer sues point out court docket officers for decline of contract that he ties to criticism of condition legislator

Files LAWSUIT: About the reduction of his function for the administrative business office of the courts.

Casey Copeland, a Prairie Grove attorney, has submitted a federal lawsuit towards two officials of the condition Supreme Court’s administrative business office of the courts for terminating his agreement to represent young children in dependency-neglect instances.

He alleges he misplaced the perform soon soon after he’d composed state Rep. Charlene Fite, the Van Buren Republican, privately to item to her sponsorship of legislation to prohibit wellness treatment for transgender youngsters. Fite is Copeland’s point out agent.

The accommodate names Marty Sullivan, director of the administrative workplace of the courts, and Stasia Burk McDonald, director of the office’s dependency-neglect legal professional advertisement litem method. McDonald, who is effective beneath Sullivan, terminated the agreement

In a declaration filed with the lawsuit,  Copeland stated he’d been used or labored beneath contract with the court docket business office on dependency-neglect scenarios due to the fact 2012 and even recently experienced his perform expanded. He was terminated on April 1 whilst doing work on a contract that was to last by June 30. He also signifies little ones in domestic instances by appointment of judges and is compensated via the administrative office environment, but not beneath condition contract. He claimed he’d hardly ever received any detrimental reviews about his perform.

The deal was terminated about 48 hrs just after he wrote an electronic mail to Fite on March 30 on his personalized email account about her sponsorship of HB 1570, the transgender treatment prohibition that grew to become legislation soon after an override of Governor Hutchinson’s veto. Copeland knew Fite as additional than his condition consultant. He’d opposed her election in 2018 as the Democratic Libertarian nominee. He experienced prepared Fite before, in 2019, about prompt laws with no ill effects. This time was various. From the declaration:


By way of subsequent Freedom of Details Act requests, Copeland uncovered that Fite experienced sent his email to a workers lawyer to Sullivan, and to the assistant director of the advertisement litem application, Janet Bledsoe, with the comment “should ad litem data be on e mail of this mother nature.” Copeland’s email recognized him as an advert litem lawyer and integrated his office of the courts’ electronic mail tackle in the “signature block” portion of the electronic mail. Much less than two hours after he’d despatched his electronic mail to Fite, Sullivan emailed five some others on the staff with the question, “Sam, terminate agreement?”

Copeland reported he was offered no clarification and a request for an exit job interview was declined. He reported he’d used the advert litem title and AOC address in a letter to Fite in 2019 with no objection from her or the office. In that situation, he was creating a suggestion about legislation and she forwarded it to the office environment of the courts. Copeland also has found, nonetheless, that Fite had composed in 2020 to Janet Bledsoe, assistant director of the advertisement litem method, to say that polling indicated Copeland was “pulling” votes from her. Fite asked that the conversation be stored confidential.

The decline of the contract has value Copeland work and earnings, he stated.

Based mostly on the timing of the termination and the communications uncovered in the FOI, Copeland concluded the termination by McDonald “was completed at the behest of Defendant Sullivan and instigated by Representative Fite in retaliation for my negative e mail to her on an problem of general public concern about her steps as my point out representative as sponsor for HB 1570.”

The lawsuit says Copeland’s To start with Modification rights have been violated by becoming punished by the point out for communicating with his legislator about a issue of community worry. It seeks an injunction to reduce the workplace of the courts from selecting a substitute for Copeland and an order that he be reinstated and renewed for a different year.

The lawsuit was filed on Copeland’s behalf by the ACLU of Arkansas, which is by now hard the constitutionality of the transgender treatment ban law in a different federal lawsuit.

The lawsuit indicates the condition expected to be sued.

Plaintiff has never ever been notified by either Defendant nor any AOC administrator, nor is he aware, of any grievance or worry about his contractual performance or his potential to provide the contracted-for products and services.  Even with inquiring for an clarification for the termination, he never ever obtained one particular.

However, a textual content from Jennifer Craun [the courts office’s director of the juvenile justice division], dated April 1, 2021, at close to 4:54 P.M. (right after Plaintiff was notified of his termination) states, “…but could we go in advance and tell him his deal was terminated due to his use of his advert litem title and AOC website tackle in a political e-mail? That is what we will say if we face a lawsuit and I believe it could help easy relations with others simply because he is mischaracterizing the fact.”

I’ve sent e-mail to Sullivan and Fite trying to get remark.


UPDATE: electronic mail from Fite:

“When workforce of state companies look prior to legislative committees, they are requested to be apparent as to whether or not they are symbolizing their employer, or speaking as a non-public citizen. The very same must use in composed communication.

”If you have added concerns, I’ll do my finest to respond. I have no expertise as to the motives for Mr. Copeland’s remaining terminated. I just uncovered of this termination late currently.”

To stick to up queries she stated:

“His electronic mail bundled his title with the AOC, as nicely as many other titles possessing to do with his courtroom work. I sent it to AOC with no remark.

“Again, I do not know the motives for his termination.”

I have questioned her why use of similar data in 2019 electronic mail to her did not prompt a comment.

She responded “in that situation it was acceptable for him to use his AOC identification, as he was suggesting variations in the legislation affecting Advertisement Litems. “