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Military-leave suit targets law firm

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The U.S. Department of Justice says an Indianapolis law firm wrongfully refused to re-employ a staff attorney who'd returned from serving in Iraq as a member of the Indiana Army National Guard.

Filing a four-page suit Monday in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division, the DOJ is suing on behalf of Mt. Vernon resident and National Guardsman Matthew B. Jeffries who now works as a bankruptcy attorney in Evansville. The suit accuses Indianapolis law firm Mike Norris & Associates of violating the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, which requires those who leave their jobs to serve in the U.S. military be timely re-employed by their civilian employers in the same or comparable position that they would have held if they hadn't left to serve their country.

Jeffries was called to active duty in February 2003 and deployed at the beginning of the Operation Enduring Freedom in Iraq. Returning in April 2004 with an honorable discharge, he contacted Mike Norris & Associates about returning to his job and the firm refused to re-employ him, the suit alleges. Jeffries filed a complaint with the Department of Labor's Veterans' Employment and Training Service (VETS), which investigated, determined the claim had merit, and referred the matter to the justice department.

Jeffries couldn't be reached at his Evansville office Tuesday morning, and Norris declined to comment on the allegations. His counsel, Indianapolis attorney Dan Emerson at Bose McKinney & Evans, said he wasn't aware that his client had been served the complaint yet and that it would premature to comment before that happens.

More than three dozen of these USERRA cases have been filed nationally since the start of the Iraqi war in 2003, including six this year, according to the DOJ employment litigation section Web site. One filed Feb. 27, 2009, in Dayton, Ohio, involved Indiana National Guardsman Kevin Stenger, who was put in a lower position after returning from a two-week annual military training to his job at industrial electrical contractor Wagner Industrial Electric. Instead of getting his previous position of foreman, Stenger was given the spot of journeyman and received a lower salary, fewer responsibilities, and less overtime opportunity. That suit remains pending.

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  1. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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