JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri Supreme Court has denied the
hearing of a case regarding a former deputy circuit clerk and 2nd
Circuit President Judge Russell Steele over wrongful termination.
In January, the high court overruled and denied Steele’s
petition for the case to be transferred and reheard, the Kirksville
Daily Express reported. A bench trial has been scheduled for
March 5, 2018, in district court.
In 2013, Susan Gall, a former Adair County deputy circuit clerk,
filed a wrongful-termination lawsuit against Steele. The Daily
Express reported that he had fired her earlier in the year after he
claimed authority over the deputy circuit clerks from Adair County
Circuit Clerk Linda Decker. She had been working as a deputy circuit
clerk since April 2005 when she was hired by Decker, according to
documents. Gall was terminated by Steele effective Oct.
According to Gall’s attorney, Robert
Herman of Schwartz, Herman and Davidson in St. Louis, it was a
“violation of her rights secured by the Civil Rights Act … and by
the United States Constitution, including its Fourteenth Amendment.”
As the Neosho
Daily News reported, Gall argued that Steele was not her legal
appointing authority and had “no right to terminate her employment”
and that it was down to the Adair County circuit clerk. Appointing
authority refers to the head supervisor of an office of state
employees, who are paid by the state of Missouri, and gives power to
either hire or fire employees.
The power has been held by the circuit clerk until recently as
outlined in a March 20, 2008, consolidation of clerical functions.
Steele, Decker and Associate Circuit Court Judge Kristie Swaim signed
it, the Hannibal
Courier Post reported. The agreement deemed the circuit clerk
“the appointing authority over all deputy circuit clerks of Adair
The lawsuit was placed on hold after the case raised a controlling
question and that Missouri law was unclear as to how to proceed.
Federal courts were then directed to parties to seek determinations
of Missouri law from Missouri courts.
The Neosho Daily News added that Judge Gary Oxenhandler, of
Missouri’s 13th circuit court, ruled in Gall’s favor last
January. Steele then subsequently appealed the ruling to the Missouri
Supreme Court. The high court transferred the case to the appellate
courts. In December, the court affirmed Oxenhandler’s ruling.
The appellate court ruled
that Steele’s action to take power over deputy circuit clerks was
“unlawful” and was not in line with Missouri law or Missouri
Supreme Court-established rules.
The Hannibal Courier Post reported that Gall and Steele attended
meetings where Gall “demanded” another employee be present, which
Steele declined after realizing that the other employee was Decker
who “did not have any relevance to the subject of the meeting.”
As the Kirksville Daily Express added,
Gall is seeking front pay, back pay, benefits, attorney fees, costs
and employment reinstatement through her lawsuit.