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Attorney alleges racial discrimination in complaint against Laurel City Court judge

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Posted at 10:13 AM, Feb 29, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-29 12:13:27-05

LAUREL - An attorney who worked in the Laurel City Court has filed a complaint alleging the judge discriminated against him because of his race.

Richard Asong filed a complaint with the state Human Rights Bureau alleging Judge Jean Kerr instructed the Office of the State Public Defender to assign a case "specifically to a Caucasian female attorney" because he is Black, according to a copy of the complaint.

Asong, who was a contract attorney with the public defender's office, alleges the judge's action "forced my employer to deny me a work assignment," the complaint states, even though Asong "was available and qualified to take the case."

Click here to read the complaint.

The case was filed with the Human Rights Bureau on Oct. 23, 2023, and is pending before the agency, but the City of Laurel issued a press release this week following media inquiries.

In the press release, an attorney for the city states city officials were not aware of the allegations of "racial profiling or discrimination" against the judge prior to the complaint, but the city "would have taken any and all appropriate steps to correct any asserted misconduct."

The press release continues that the complaint "will entail a long judicial process" and "asserts a significant amount of damages." The allegations "suggest a long-standing practice of other discrimination" by the judge, the press release states, but because Kerr is an elected official the city has "little or no control over her, as a sitting judge."

Laurel "will be engaging in a serious defense" on behalf of the judge as required by law, the press release states, and "regardless of the outcome, the City wants to assure its constituents and the public that it does not endorse or support any sort of discrimination, whether racial in nature, or otherwise."