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Judge sides with Baltimore prosecutor in employment dispute

(iStock/aluxum)

(iStock/aluxum)

A federal judge has ruled in favor of the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office in an employment discrimination case, finding the office had reason to believe a state-court judge had expressed concern about the plaintiff’s behavior.

Antoinette E. Swiec was an office manager from 1985 until 2010 when she was fired, according to the complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. Swiec, who is white, claimed the firing was racially-motivated.

But U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz granted a defense motion for summary judgment Monday, finding that although “some doubts were raised about the propriety of the decision” of the office, then headed by Patricia C. Jessamy, there was reason to believe a judge had expressed concern about Swiec contacting his chambers about her nephew serving jury duty.

Maintaining a good relationship with a judge was a sufficient reason to fire her, Motz wrote.

John H. Morris Jr., a Baltimore solo practitioner representing Swiec, said Wednesday he was conferring with his client on her next steps.

In 2010, Swiec was supervising a clerical staff which was “exclusively African American and predominantly young” and expressed concerns about the staff to her supervisor that were ignored, according to the complaint. Swiec was offered a move to another unit that was predominately white, according to the complaint.

While Swiec was considering the transition, her nephew was called for jury duty at Baltimore City Circuit Court and she planned to meet him for lunch, the lawsuit states. Swiec wanted to know when the presiding judge would break for lunch, and an attorney in the office suggested she call the judge’s chambers and ask, the lawsuit states.

The next day, Swiec was ordered to appear in court before Judge Emanuel Brown, where “admonished her for an alleged impropriety involving calling his chambers to inquire regarding her nephew’s availability,” according to the complaint.

Swiec was further chastised by the state’s attorney’s office and presented with a letter terminating her employment, according to the complaint. She claims she was fired to accommodate the wishes of the people she supervised to see her removed.

The state’s attorney’s office, in its motion for summary judgment, argued Swiec was terminated because of the improper contact she made with a judge’s chambers and that she did not provide support for her argument that the decision was related to her race.

The case is Antoinette E. Swiec v. Haven Kodek et al., 1:13-cv-03287.