By Shannon P. Duffy
U.S. Courthouse Correspondent
Until an unexpected glitch arose on Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., had been expected to take the witness stand this week to testify about events during his tenure as Eastern District U.S. Attorney in a discrimination lawsuit brought by Paul Mansfield, a former assistant U.S. attorney who claims he was fired in retaliation for lodging complaints of age and disability discrimination.
But Meehan's appearance has now been delayed indefinitely because U.S. District Judge Legrome D. Davis has ordered Mansfield to turn over all of his medical records -- a process that Davis said could not be completed in a day.
Davis said the trial must go on hiatus until the medical records have been disclosed. When the trial resumes, Meehan (shown left) is expected to be called to testify about his role as the ultimate decisionmaker in the firing of Mansfield.
A former member of the elite Organized Crime Strike Force, Mansfield is the first prosecutor ever to be fired from the Philadelphia U.S. Attorney's office, according to the opening statement of his lawyer, Frank Finch.
The trial is offering a rare glimpse behind the scenes of the Eastern District federal prosecutor’s office. Testimony so far has revealed that Meehan's tenure was marked by controversy stemming from some of the prosecutors he promoted to high-ranking posts, especially First Assistant Laurie Magid and Criminal Division Chief Linda Dale Hoffa.
Both Hoffa and Magid have testified about their participation in the decision to fire Mansfield. Both said it was part of a system of "progressive discipline" and that Mansfield had been suspended or reprimanded several times before.
Mansfield claims that he was targeted for harsher discipline after he was hospitalized for more than a month with heart problems and that his complaints about the unfair treatment only led to harsher retaliation.
Hoffa's testimony was devastating. She said Mansfield's suspensions stemmed from missing deadlines in important cases. Once, she said, he told a superviser that his brief in an appeal was due the next day and that he had not yet done any work on it.
Mansfield had no valid excuses for making such glaring errors, Hoffa testified, because he was carrying a significantly lighter caseload than other lawyers in the office, and because he routinely insisted that he was capable of performing the job and did not need any accommodations.
But Mansfield also called attorney Robert Goldman, a former prosecutor in the office who gained notoriety for pursuing headline-grabbing cases about thefts of art and historical treasures from museums and national archives.
Goldman testified that he left the office because, in his opinion, Magid and Hoffa had created a hostile environment. He said the criticisms of his work were at times fabricated.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kate Mershimer, whose office is in Harrisburg, was specially assigned to defend the case. In her opening statement, Mershimer said Mansfield cannot prove that anyone involved in the decision to fire him was motivated by anything other than Mansfield's professional shortcomings and that his prior filing of discrimination complaints had nothing to do with it.