Accompanied by armed deputies, judge removes circuit clerk from office

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A circuit clerk in Lincoln County, Missouri, who sued three local judges says she was literally ousted from her office Tuesday.

The clerk, Karla Allsberry, says in a statement that Presiding Judge Patrick Flynn entered her office with armed deputies and ordered her to leave, report the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Lincoln News Now.

A sheriff’s official confirmed to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that several deputies were dispatched to Allsberry’s office “to keep the peace” after Flynn had asked for a deputy to stand by during the ouster.

Flynn issued his own statement saying he had appointed a deputy court clerk to temporarily take Allsberry’s place because of her “indefinite unavailability.”

In a May 18 lawsuit filed in Cole County, Allsberry contended that Flynn and two other local judges had wrongly taken away her authority to hire and fire employees and to submit a budget for her office, according to another story by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

In an unsuccessful appeal of the judges’ decision to a court committee, Allsberry said Flynn had campaigned against her and had a vendetta against her husband because he defeated Flynn in an election in 2014. Flynn defeated a different judge in the latest election, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported here.

Allsberry’s husband abstained in the vote by Flynn and the other judges.

Flynn had contended that he acted because six clerks quit when Allsberry took office, and he feared more would leave, according to notes taken by a community activist during a meeting called by Flynn to discuss the issue. The Post-Dispatch reviewed the notes.

The local judges gave Allsberry’s appointing authority to Flynn, who cited a state statute that gives presiding circuit judges “general administrative authority over all judicial personnel and court officials in the circuit.” Some judges in other counties have sought similar authority.

Allsberry’s suit claims that Flynn wrongly attributed the decision to strip her of power to a crisis in the clerk’s office, and he later verbally harassed her deputy clerk until she began crying.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch spoke with Brendan Roediger, director of St. Louis University’s law school litigation clinic. He said Flynn’s authority over judicial personnel generally doesn’t authorize him to remove a circuit clerk.

“There’s actually a separate statutory provision that makes it a misdemeanor for a clerk to not do their job and in order for a judge to fire a clerk, they have to bring that charge,” Roediger said.

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