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Taking Matters into Her Own Hands

Civil-rights case ends with plaintiff suing her lawyer.

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In an inconspicuous Circuit Court case LAST Friday, plaintiff Linda Taylor did her best to prove the age-old saying that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.

Taylor, representing herself in Judge Karen Williams' courtroom, received a final extension in her civil suit against her former attorney, Kevin Snider. The case stemmed from Snider's representation of Taylor in a Chancery Court suit against Shelby County. That suit was filed against the county for violation of Taylor's civil rights, which led to the termination of her job in 1995.

At that time, Taylor had been a speech pathologist for four years with the county-run Head Start child development program. When the Head Start director introduced a new fingerprinting requirement for background checks for employees, Taylor objected on religious grounds. She contended that the policy was instituted without a state law or child-care licensing regulation requiring fingerprinting and provided other documents proving her clear background, including a "No Wants" arrest record from the Shelby County Sheriff's Office. Administrators disagreed with Taylor, and she was subsequently fired.

"After I lost my job I was completely affected," Taylor said. "Many people have asked me why I don't just give up and get another job with my credentials, but I can't let it go." She estimated that she has lost $262,000 in salary as a result of her 1995 termination.

"I understood where she was coming from, because my father is a minister and I understand her religious background," said Snider. "It's a legitimate issue. Unfortunately, the [Chancery Court] judge didn't agree. If we had been able to have our day in court, at least we would have been in the ballgame." That case was dismissed in 2001.

Taylor felt that she had been misrepresented by Snider and then sued him for more than $600,000.

"He didn't do his job," she said. "I've been told by other attorneys that had he had my best interests in mind I could have won my case. At that time, I had only paid him a $500 retainer fee, and I guess he thought he had done $500 worth of work." Her complaint states that Snider "made four sentences; he then just sat down and just sat there in silence" during the Chancery Court proceedings. She also accuses Snider of presenting no case law or supporting affidavits.

After battling almost two years in court with no lawyer, Williams gave Taylor 30 days to secure legal representation and file the necessary paperwork in the case. She is trying to raise $3,000 to retain a new lawyer.

"I have no ill will at all toward her, but I disagree with why she's upset," said Snider. "It's kind of like, 'Don't shoot the messenger.' Would I represent her again? I don't know. After someone sues you for a half million dollars, it's hard to say yes, but then again, you can never say never."

E-mail: jdavis@memphisflyer.com

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