Another former top prosecutor who was fired by Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner is suing the DA and city for age discrimination, bringing the tally of city litigators who say they were dismissed due to their age to six.
In a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday, James Carpenter — the former chief of the Family Violence and Sexual Assault Unit — alleges that three days after Krasner took office in January 2018, he was given the “Hobson’s choice” of either resigning or being fired from his post at the District Attorney’s Office, where he had worked for 22 years.
After refusing to resign, Carpenter, then 53, claims he was instructed to clear out his office and escorted out of the Center City building, later submitting his “forced resignation” by email. Carpenter, who says he was not given a reason for his ouster, contends in the lawsuit that he was dismissed due to his age, alleging that his cases were then reassigned to “younger, less experienced prosecutors,” and that Krasner’s public remarks to the media have revealed a “partiality” toward younger prosecutors.
Carpenter declined to comment on the lawsuit Thursday. His attorney, Sidney L. Gold, did not return a request for comment.
Carpenter, who was dismissed from the District Attorney’s Office in a sweeping staff shake-up in Krasner’s first week, is the sixth former city prosecutor to sue Krasner for age discrimination in the last five months. Another prosecutor has also filed suit, alleging she was let go because she is white.
In September, former prosecutors Carlos Vega and Joseph Whitehead Jr., who worked in the homicide unit, and Michelle Seidner, who last worked in the Economic and Cyber Crime Unit, sued, citing age discrimination. Vega was 61 at the time, Whitehead 64, and Seidner 60.
Last week, Mark Gilson, a longtime homicide prosecutor, and E. Marc Costanzo, a former chief of the Special Investigations Unit, also filed a federal lawsuit against Krasner, alleging they were let go because of their ages. Both men were 58 at the time of dismissal.
All seven former staffers were among more than 30 employees dismissed three days into Krasner’s term.
Krasner’s spokesperson, Jane Roh, pushed back against the claims.
“The District Attorney is a 58-year-old man who upon taking office, as one of his first official acts, hired an 84-year-old first assistant DA and a 69-year-old first assistant DA to the senior leadership of this office," she wrote in an email Thursday. “It is not only common for a newly elected official to select their own leadership team and staff – it is expected. The coach gets to pick the team and to call the plays.”
It’s not unusual for top prosecutors to begin their tenures with staffing changes.
Krasner’s “broad reorganization” affected about 10% of lawyers in the office. Ed Rendell, a former Philadelphia district attorney, mayor, and governor, told The Inquirer that he dismissed about 25% of the staff when he took over as the city’s top prosecutor in 1978. In December, as incoming Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer prepared to take office, he fired 11 prosecutors, or 23% percent of the staff.
Carpenter’s lawsuit seeks compensation for his lost wages, salary, benefits, and damages, or alternatively, reinstatement to his job with the city.