A former prosecutor from Hunterdon County, New Jersey, has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit after he believed the attorney general's office improperly dismissed a grand jury indictment for political reasons, and later reported the incident to his supervisors. New Jersey law protects employees from being fired for making reports of alleged impropriety or misconduct. The New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA) prevents a "whistleblower," or someone who makes a report of misconduct in good faith, from becoming the victim of adverse employment actions if he or she makes such a report.
Bennet Barlyn, who began working as an assistant prosecutor in 2007, is now using New Jersey law to bring forward his wrongful termination lawsuit. Barlyn claims that rather than pursuing justice, the attorney general's office dismissed a 43-count indictment against a former Hunterdon County Sheriff and several other officers. In order to have the indictments dropped, Barlyn alleges that the office lied about the indictment being "defective." He also believes that he was fired after he told supervisors that he believed the dismissal as based solely on political motivations, and therefore, improper.
In his lawsuit, Barlyn seeks lost wages totaling approximately $3 million. He has also asked to be awarded punitive damages. Recently, a court ruled that he would be allowed to retrieve the sealed grand jury indictments at the heart of the dispute in order to use them in his lawsuit. The indictments had previously been sealed, in accordance with standard procedures. Barlyn hopes to be able to use the indictments to prove that he was justified in reporting the alleged misconduct to supervisors and prove that he should be compensated for becoming the victim of wrongful termination.