PORTLAND — A former corrections worker who was fired for engaging in duct-tape and chokehold pranks at the jail and later sued the county for wrongful termination is appealing an Androscoggin County Superior Court judge's decision to dismiss the suit.
Patrick Gorham appealed to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court in June.
Gorham, a corporal at the Androscoggin County Jail in Auburn, was fired after surveillance cameras showed him involved in two pranks at the jail last year while on duty. One of the pranks involved duct-taping a fellow worker to his chair. In another prank, he put a co-worker in a chokehold.
An Androscoggin County Superior Court judge ruled in May that Gorham's appeal was not filed in time for the court to hear his complaint.
Gorham was required to file his appeal of the Androscoggin County Commission — which voted 2-1 to fire him — within 30 days of learning about his termination, that judge ruled. Gorham attended the commission's Nov. 4 meeting where the votes were cast. He filed his lawsuit challenging his firing on Dec. 18.
Attorneys for the commission were successful in seeking to have the suit dismissed before going to trial.
In court documents, an attorney for Gorham outlined the issues for his appeal.
Shawn Sullivan, a lawyer based in Concord, N.H., wrote that the high court should decide whether the lower court mistakenly relied upon a 1985 zoning case involving the town of Kennebunk.
Sullivan also wrote that he would ask the court to consider whether the lower court erred in failing to find that Maine's Freedom of Access Act required the County Commission to issue a written statement and findings of fact outlining the reasons for an employee's dismissal.
Sullivan is expected to ask the high court to decide whether the county court made a mistake when it dismissed Gorham's claim of federal due process under the circumstances in which the appeal process “was inadequate to address the full scope of relief requested by him.”
The lower court judge concluded that Gorham had pursued the proper legal mechanism, even if he didn't specifically cite it in the complaint filed with the court. But, using that mechanism, the suit was untimely, the judge wrote in his decision.
Sullivan had argued in the lower court that Gorham should have had 30 days from the date of the commission's written decision and findings of fact, recorded on Nov. 18, to file his appeal.
In his lawsuit, Gorham complained that his due process rights were violated under the U.S. Constitution.
The firing stemmed from two incidents.
In one, he and other corrections officers bound a fellow worker to his chair using duct tape. The chair was wheeled with the worker in it into a prisoner transport elevator and sent to another floor before he was returned and freed himself.
In another incident, Gorham put a fellow worker into a chokehold. Afterward, that worker lay his head on his desk repeatedly and complained he was disoriented and nauseous. The worker said he consented to Gorham's actions.
Oral arguments before the high court have not yet been scheduled.