Hennepin County public defender Mary Moriarty ousted

Public defender Mary Moriarty.
Chief Hennepin County public defender Mary Moriarty speaks after a sentencing hearing in Minneapolis. She was voted out of the post Wednesday.
Tim Nelson | MPR News 2019

Updated: Oct. 1, 3:04 p.m. | Posted Sept. 30, 7:55 p.m.

A state panel on Wednesday ousted Hennepin County chief public defender Mary Moriarty. 

The Board of Public Defense voted 4-2 against re-appointing Moriarty to the post that she's held since 2014.

Last year, the board put Moriarty on paid leave and later gave her a letter of reprimand. That followed allegations that she has a "fractured relationship" with others in the justice system, made inappropriate social media posts, and created a culture of fear in her office.

At the meeting, civil rights attorney Nekima Levy Armstrong said Moriarty has consistently fought against systemic problems, particularly racial profiling in traffic stops.

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"She has been committed to racial justice, to building bridges to challenging systemic injustices that are happening within our community," Levy Armstrong said. 

Other supporters praised her work in ending marijuana sting operations that disproportionately affected Black people.

Bill Ward, the state's chief public defender, told Moriarty that the board’s actions against her had nothing to do racial justice issues.

"It is about questionable management decisions,” Ward said. “It's about the inability to work professionally. I've never suggested to any chief, including you, that we needed to get along just to get along. But we need a professional working relationship."

Moriarty asked the board to consider the message it's sending to staff in the public defender’s office as well as the wider community.

Correction (Oct. 1, 2020): A previous version of this story had an incorrect tally for the Board of Public Defense's vote. The article has been updated.