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 court documents. Gall was terminated by Steele effective Oct. 31.

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 County.”

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.

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