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The Minnesota Board of Public Defense declined Wednesday to give Hennepin County public defender Mary Moriarty a four-year extension. This photo shows Moriarty in her office in October 2019. (AP photo: John Minchillo)
The Minnesota Board of Public Defense declined Wednesday to give Hennepin County public defender Mary Moriarty a four-year extension. This photo shows Moriarty in her office in October 2019. (AP photo: John Minchillo)

Board declines to reappoint public defender Moriarty

A state board has voted against renewing the contract for Hennepin County’s chief public defender.

The Minnesota Board of Public Defense declined Wednesday to give Mary Moriarty a four-year extension. But the Star Tribune reported that the 4-2 vote doesn’t mean she is out of a job. Her term isn’t up until end of the year, and she can reapply.

During six hours of public discussions, Moriarty accused the state’s chief public defender, Bill Ward, of sexism and racism. He denied it, saying Moriarty’s inability to work with others and rebuild relationships was the problem.

One board member, former state Supreme Court Justice Helen Meyer, started opposed to Moriarty’s reappointment but changed her mind. Meyer asked about finding a middle ground that would keep her on with “explicit understandings” on how she would work with the state leadership.

The board put Moriarty on paid leave late last year amid allegations that she posted “inappropriate and offensive” content on social media, had “fractured” relationships with criminal justice leaders and the judicial branch, and created a fear of retaliation.

The board issued a letter of reprimand and reinstated her earlier this year after Attorney General Keith Ellison said he believed she was targeted for speaking out against racial bias in the criminal justice system.

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