Moore-Pennoyer v. StateAnnotate this Case
Plaintiff was the secretarial assistant of Circuit Judge Harold Wimberly when Judge Wimberly lost the contested general election to William Ailor. Ailor informed Plaintiff that he would not require her services after taking office. Plaintiff filed suit against the State and Ailor in his individual capacity, alleging tortious interference with her employment relationship. Plaintiff also filed a complaint in the Claims Commission. Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the statute providing that claims against the State based on the acts or omissions of state employees shall operate as a waiver of any cause of action which the claimant has against any state officer or employee. The trial court declined to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims against Ailor, concluding that Ailor was not acting as a state officer or employee when he made the administrative staffing decision. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because Plaintiff’s employment automatically ended when Judge Wimberly’s term ended and because she remained employed until the end of Judge Wimberly’s term, as a matter of law, Ailor did not tortiously interfere with Plaintiff’s employment relationship.
Authoring Judge: Justice Cornelia A. Clark
Trial Court Judge: Special Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood
We granted permission to appeal to clarify the nature of the employment relationship of a trial judge s secretarial assistant. We hold that a trial judge s secretarial assistant is an at-will employee. As a result, the secretarial assistant s employment may be terminated at any time during the term of the trial judge to whom he or she is assigned, either by the judge or the secretarial assistant. If the relationship is not terminated during the trial judge s term, the secretarial assistant s employment automatically terminates when the trial judge s service ends. Because the plaintiff secretarial assistant s employment automatically ended when the trial judge s term ended and because she remained employed until the end of the trial judge s term, as a matter of law, the defendant did not tortiously interfere with the plaintiff s employment relationship. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals, vacate the judgment of the trial court, and remand for entry of a judgment granting the defendant s motion to dismiss the plaintiff s complaint, and for any further proceedings, consistent with this decision, that may be necessary in the trial court.