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International Association of Fire Fighters, Local Union No. 42 v. Jackson County

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Third Division

August 15, 2017


         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Jackson County The Honorable Stephen K. Willcox, Judge

          Before Alok Ahuja, P.J., and James E. Welsh and Edward R. Ardini, Jr., JJ.

          Alok Ahuja, Judge.

         Bryan Krantz served as an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney in the Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney's Office from 1984 until his employment was terminated in August 2011. Krantz was a member of Local 42 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, and his employment was governed by a collective bargaining agreement. Krantz's union representatives filed a grievance challenging his termination. Following an evidentiary hearing, an arbitrator vacated Krantz's discharge, and ordered that he receive a written reprimand instead.

         The Jackson County Prosecutor and Jackson County Executive exercised their joint authority under the collective bargaining agreement to review the arbitrator's decision. They issued a joint decision modifying the arbitration award, and reinstating Krantz's discharge. Local 42 filed suit in the Circuit Court of Jackson County, contending that the County's modification of the arbitration award breached the collective bargaining agreement. The circuit court granted summary judgment to the County, upholding management's decision to terminate Krantz's employment.

         Local 42 appeals. We affirm.

         Factual Background

         Krantz served as an assistant prosecutor in the Prosecuting Attorney's Office from 1984 until his termination in August 2011. At the time of his discharge, Krantz was a senior trial attorney. He was terminated by Jean Peters Baker, who was appointed Prosecuting Attorney in May 2011.

         Krantz's termination arose out of his conduct as lead trial counsel in State of Missouri v. Mauricio Lopez, No. 0916-CR0111-03, filed in the Circuit Court of Jackson County. The Lopez case was assigned to Judge Jack R. Grate. The defendant in Lopez was charged with second-degree murder and armed criminal action. The case was originally filed in March 2009, but was dismissed and re-filed by Krantz on September 13, 2010, the day the case was set for trial.

         Krantz and defense counsel in the Lopez case (Pat Peters) had ongoing disputes concerning the adequacy of the State's disclosure of information in discovery. On December 9, 2010, Judge Grate entered a "Discovery Order" directing the State to provide all discovery requested by the defense within 20 days. Krantz responded on December 29 by providing a packet of material which he asserted complied with the Discovery Order. Peters disagreed that the State had discharged its obligations under the December 9 order and the discovery rules.

         On March 24, 2011, with the case set for trial on August 8, 2011, Judge Grate entered a further order in an attempt to resolve the pending discovery disputes. The March 24, 2011 order provided that defense counsel

shall provide the State with a comprehensive list of all discovery that Defendant alleges it has not been provided. The State shall respond to that list and identify which of the documents have in fact been provided, when, and with enough information to identify the document. This will narrow the issues for the Court to take up.

         The circuit court's March 24 order was unusual: Krantz testified at the arbitration hearing that he had never previously been involved in a case in which the court ordered a defendant to provide a detailed list of requested discovery materials, and gave the prosecution a date certain by which to respond.

         On May 31, 2011, defense counsel Peters sent Krantz a ten-page letter which included a detailed list of the items to which the defense claimed they were entitled, but which had not yet been disclosed by the State (the "Discovery Letter").

         A discovery hearing was scheduled on June 3, 2011. That morning, Krantz's "second chair" in Lopez, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Devin Ledom, filed an application for continuance of the hearing. The sole basis for a continuance stated in the application was that "[t]he State received the letter from defense counsel detailing the discovery deficiencies alleged on May 31st, and the State has not had ample time to analyze the list and prepare a response." The continuance application was signed by Ledom on Krantz's behalf. Ledom later explained that the decision to file the application for continuance, in response to the Discovery Letter, was made solely by Krantz, and that Ledom "did not have any personal knowledge of the letter or list referred to in . . . the Application and included this information at the direction of Bryan Krantz." Ledom also stated that he "would not have included any information about the May 31st letter [in the application] had I had [sic] not been directed by Bryan Krantz to do so." Krantz acknowledged at the arbitration hearing that he had directed Ledom to file the continuance application.

         In response to the State's continuance motion, the court reset the discovery hearing for July 19, 2011, less than three weeks before the August 8 trial date. Krantz testified at the arbitration proceeding that, when he arrived at the July 19 hearing, he believed that the hearing was intended to address only Lopez's unrelated traffic tickets, and potentially for the taking of a guilty plea in the murder case. Krantz testified that he understood that, if no guilty plea was made and accepted at the July 19 hearing, the pending discovery issues would be set for hearing at a later date. Krantz acknowledged that he was unprepared to address the suppression and discovery issues which the circuit court actually addressed at the July 19 hearing.

         After the parties entered their appearances, Judge Grate began the July 19 hearing by explaining that,

What we have pending today is everything. In case anybody was unclear about that we had everything that was pending set on March 24th, if not earlier, and on that date it was continued to May 12th, and on that date it was continued to June 3rd, and on that date it was continued to 7/19. It is clear to me from the tenor of these orders that what is set is everything and because we have got our trial date.

         The court then recounted the case's procedural history in detail, highlighting the pending motions. At the conclusion of this recitation, Judge Grate asked the parties: "[n]ow, if somebody has got a different idea about what all is pending, speak up. I went through the file with some care." Krantz said nothing. He did not take issue with the court's description of the scope of the hearing, or indicate that he was unprepared to proceed.

         As the circuit court reviewed the status of discovery, a lengthy colloquy occurred concerning the Discovery Letter, and whether Krantz had seen and responded to it. Because Krantz's statements during this exchange became a primary basis for his discharge, we quote from the July 19, 2011 transcript at length:

The Court: Have you given the state a comprehensive list what you thought were the shortcomings in their discovery?
Mr. Peters: Yes. We had talked previously that I had filed a pleading back in February that detailed things, and it falls into two categories. Things that the state listed as exhibits they intended to introduce which I have not been provided, and things that I had requested that I have not been provided after we came to court. And the Court corrected me on going with what I had done in February wasn't sufficient. I sent a letter to Brian restating the items that we had talked about and then mentioning the things that we've discussed over and over having to do with documents in evidence such as subpoenas, motions, orders for writs, letters, e-mails, handwritten notes, etcetera.
The Court: Mr. Krantz, as far as that goes, did you then respond?
Mr. Krantz: The last I recall we were in chambers and Mr. Peters said he was dropping the motion. Do you have a copy of the letter because I don't have it in my file.
The Court: He said he was going to drop it, and then we came out in open court and he said he wasn't, after he consulted with his client and his partner.
Mr. Krantz: I don't have a copy of this. Judge, I don't have a copy of this. Let's cut to the chase. Mr. Peters and I have an ongoing dispute about the state's obligations in discovery. We follow the Supreme Court rules.
The Court: But you followed my order.
Mr. Krantz: Pardon me?
The Court: I solved all of this and told you what to do.
Mr. Krantz: All right. Okay.
The Court: Don't you think? Here is what I told you to do, respond to his list. Now I said that on March 24th, and if you never got a letter from him giving you the list. Did you ever contact him and say, where is your stupid list that I need to respond to?
Mr. Krantz: No sir, I did not.
Mr. Peters: Judge, it may be because we have multiple attorneys. But in Mr. Ledom's - well, actually it's Mr. Krantz's application for continuance from our last hearing date, he states, "The state received the letter from defense counsel detailing the discovery deficiencies alleged on May 31st" - which is the date of my letter - "and the state has not had ample time to analyze the list and prepare a response."
The Court: What date is that?
Mr. Peters: I don't know what date it was filed. I received it by fax on June 2nd of 2011.
The Court: I show it filed in on June 3rd, but I think we're talking about the same thing. Mr. Krantz, that kind of belies the idea that you didn't ...

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