Sexual harassment lawsuits against Madison County Sheriff’s Office in doubt after attorney withdraws for health reasons

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- The future is in doubt for four lawsuits filed against the Madison County Sheriff’s Office that allege sexual harassment and retaliation against employees who reported it.

The lawsuits against the sheriff’s office were filed starting  September of last year. They were filed by former and current Madison County Sheriff’s Office employees.

The claims name Sheriff Blake Dorning, other sheriff’s office leaders, the Madison County Commission and Madison County Human Resources personnel. The claims argue the county failed to follow its own policy regarding sexual harassment complaints.

The lawsuits were all filed by Florence-based attorney Michael Weathers.

But Weathers has filed notice with the court that he has to withdraw from the cases.

Weathers said he’s withdrawing due to health problems that he's been receiving treatment for over the past several weeks.

The withdrawal leaves the future of the lawsuits in doubt.

Three of the plaintiffs, Shelby Holt, Gregory Gray and Erica Cagle currently don’t have new attorneys. The judges in the cases have given them until mid-June to find new lawyers.

One plaintiff, Marina Garcia, received a limited appearance by Huntsville attorney Kerri Johnson Riley in order to obtain more time to find a new attorney, but court records don’t yet show any permanent counsel.

Attorneys for the sheriff’s office and Madison County have argued the lawsuits should be thrown out because they either don’t address specific misconduct by the defendants or are overly broad in their claims.