On March 23, 2020, the ACLU of Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit against the Montgomery County commissioners accusing the county of violating the state Sunshine Act when the commissioners dismissed the county's top two public defenders, Dean Beer and Keisha Hudson.
After observing thousands of bail hearings in Philadelphia during 2018 and 2019, the ACLU of Pennsylvania and allies determined that bail judges were not adequately taking into account the ability of a person to afford cash bail before assigning that person cash bail. The ACLU of Pennsylvania and allies filed a complaint with the state Supreme Court, asking the court to ensure that the rules are followed in Philadelphia and across the commonwealth.
In Montgomery County, Chief Public Defender Dean Beer and Deputy Chief Keisha Hudson filed a brief in support of the Philadelphia lawsuit and called into question the misuse of cash bail in Montgomery County, noting that because “the Office of the Public Defender represents indigent individuals facing criminal charges at all stages of their proceedings,” the defenders have “a substantial interest in this matter.” Just weeks later, Mr. Beer and Ms. Hudson were abruptly fired.
The ACLU of Pennsylvania's lawsuit alleges that the firing of Mr. Beer and Ms. Hudson is a violation of the Sunshine Act, which mandates that actions taken by public agencies, such as the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, be made in public — and the action must be preceded by an opportunity for public comment.
The lawsuit asks the court to void the actions of the commissioners.