Former Montana State Chief Public Defender Randi Hood has filed a suit with the Human Rights Bureau regarding its hiring practices.

Hood, 66, filed a complaint in November 2015 with the Montana Department of Labor and Industry in November alleging the Office of the State Public Defender discriminated against her due to her age.

She has more than 35 years experience in criminal defense law, Hood wrote in her complaint.

Hood was the state’s first chief public defender, running the office from 2005-2011, after the state Office of Public Defender was established. In her claim, she said she was in that position for about five years. 

Hood applied for a position as an assistant public defender in the Helena office. Two positions were open at the time, Hood states in her complaint.

She was one of three candidates and the two younger applicants, whom Hood said are 20 and 30 years younger than she is, were hired. Hood states in her complaint the office hired the "less qualified" applicants over her due to her age. Hood wrote the discrimination took place in October 2015.

In her claim, Hood said the two attorneys hired for the assistant public defender job both had less than five years experience. Hood has not work for the Office of the Public Defender since early February. 

According to Gazette archives, when Missoula attorney James Park Taylor resigned from his position on the Montana Public Defender Commission in 2011, he cited Hood as someone who couldn't move the office forward, but also could not be moved out of her position.

In a letter to then-Gov. Brian Schweitzer explaining why he left the commission, Taylor said he didn't believe the system would improve under Hood, but that the commission “lacks the will to replace her.”

The Office of the State Public Defender had no comment, noting that the complaint is ongoing. Hood did not return a call for comment.

The Office of the Public Defender has denied information regarding their hiring and firing practices as it is a personnel matter.

It has refused to comment on the firing of David A. Duke, former head of the Public Defender's Region 9 office based in Billings, who held that position for almost eight years.

The state office also will not comment on the firing of region 9 Public Defender Erik Moore last July.

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