Sean Smith, a former Charlotte prosecutor who won a judgeship last month. is suing outgoing District Attorney Peter Gilchrist, claiming he was improperly fired for giving a television interview, the Charlotte Observer reports. Smith’s six-year career as a prosecutor ended in July, when Gilchrist fired him days after he criticized a local defensive driving school in a televised interview. Smith’s suit charges that his “right to free speech was violated because he was terminated for making statements on a matter of public concern and in order to silence and discredit him from speaking further.”
Smith is a Republican, while both Gilchrist and the man Smith defeated for the judgeship are Democrats. In July, Smith attended a four-hour driving course at the N.C. Safety and Health Council, to evaluate the quality of the class. Smith was skeptical about the school Gilchrist had been using for more than 20 years to divert low-level traffic offenders out of the courthouse. Smith later said he found the quality of the driving class to be poor and observed students not following along or being asked questions. In a July 9 televised interview, Smith said he worried the driving school was ineffective and questioned the propriety of Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers steering motorists to the classes. That practice has since been discontinued.