Jefferson County hit with $5 million civil rights lawsuit

Former deputy prosecutor claims discrimination

Posted 11/28/22

Raising allegations of a hostile work environment, sexual harassment, and age discrimination, a former deputy prosecuting attorney has filed a federal lawsuit against Jefferson County and her former …

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Jefferson County hit with $5 million civil rights lawsuit

Former deputy prosecutor claims discrimination

Posted

Raising allegations of a hostile work environment, sexual harassment, and age discrimination, a former deputy prosecuting attorney has filed a federal lawsuit against Jefferson County and her former colleagues in the prosecuting attorney’s office.

In a civil lawsuit filed Nov. 16 in the U.S. District Court-Western District of Washington, Julian Elizabeth St. Marie is claiming that her civil rights were violated when her employment was terminated in May 2021.

St. Marie is seeking $5 million in damages from the county.

The lawsuit names Jefferson County and the Jefferson County Prosecutor’s Office as defendants.

Six other county employees, and their spouses, are also individually named as co-defendants.

The new lawsuit echoes and amplifies accusations made earlier this year by St. Marie. 

St. Marie filed a damage claim for $3 million against Jefferson County in July, and that claim has not been resolved.

County officials previously declined to comment on the damage claim.

The Seattle-based law firm of Fisher & Phillips is representing the defendants listed in St. Marie’s lawsuit.

An attorney from Fisher & Phillips who is representing the county said the lawsuit is meritless.

“Ms. St. Marie previously worked for the Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and she was terminated from her job,” Jeremy F. Wood said in an email Monday to The Leader.

“She has filed a legal complaint, which has no merit. Her allegations lack any basis in fact and undermine the dedicated public servants who protect the people of our county every day,” Wood added. “We look forward to our day in court and the opportunity to fully disprove the claims presented.”

In the 55-page lawsuit, St. Marie claimed her civil rights guaranteed under the First, Fifth, and 14th Amendments had been violated.

St. Marie has requested a jury trial.

In addition to the county and the prosecutor’s office, the other defendants listed in the lawsuit include County Prosecutor James Kennedy, Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Chris Ashcraft, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Tuppence Mcintyre, Chief Civil Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Philip Hunsucker, and Human Resource Officer Andy Rowlson.

St. Marie is being represented in the lawsuit by George Paul Trejo Jr., a Yakima-based attorney who also filed the earlier $3 million claim against the county.

The lawsuit repeats allegations made in the earlier damage claim, with accusations that the prosecutor’s office had a hostile work environment and St. Marie was subject to sex discrimination and age discrimination. She additionally claimed county officials had damaged her personal and professional reputation.

St. Marie, 57, is currently an attorney in private practice. She was a chief deputy prosecuting attorney and deputy prosecuting attorney for Jefferson County from June 2015 through May 2021.

St. Marie noted her success in prosecuting felony cases while working for the county, including cases involving violent crimes, animal cruelty, sex offenses, and domestic violence.

She also claimed she was demoted from chief deputy prosecuting attorney to deputy prosecuting attorney in March 2019, when Kennedy, the newly-elected prosecutor, hired Ashcraft as the chief criminal deputy.

In her lawsuit, St. Marie called Ashcraft “lesser qualified” and noted he had only been a licensed attorney for less than 13 years, while she had nearly 25 years of experience.

Ashcraft’s hiring is part of St. Marie’s claim of age discrimination. In the lawsuit, she said she was “wrongfully discharged as evidenced by the county hiring a younger, less experienced male and paid him more.”

St. Marie alleged in her lawsuit that she had earlier raised concerns of an “inappropriate and unprofessional atmosphere” in the prosecutor’s office, adding the workplace was “full of sexual innuendos, inappropriate sexual gestures, and open favoritism” between other employees.

She also claimed that foul language was used in the prosecutor’s office, and one employee had a sign near his desk that read, “This office runs on Red Vines, caffeine, and cuss words.”

The lawsuit also details a deteriorating relationship between St. Marie and her fellow attorneys in the prosecutor’s office to the point where it appeared her job was in jeopardy.

“The emotional toll on [St. Marie] was overwhelming,” the lawsuit states. “Plaintiff was unable to hold back her tears. Plaintiff became physically ill. She vomited at home and in the courthouse bathroom. She had many sleepless nights.”

The lawsuit also repeatedly claimed St. Marie “suffered conscious physical pain, suffering, and emotional trauma.”

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  • Concerned Citizen

    If these are going after $5M, then if I did a claim against the county and it's departments, it should be for massively more as it includes conspiracy and hatecrimes, especially as I have factual evidence of it.

    Monday, November 28, 2022 Report this