Big changes in Montgomery County as top 2 public defenders fired

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — The top two public defenders in Montgomery County were fired Wednesday. County officials are declining comment, but several others are weighing in.

Dean Beer — who was the chief of the Montgomery County Public Defender Office — and his deputy chief, Keisha Hudson, have been let go. 

They’ll be replaced by Carol Sweeney, who is currently the case management chief in the office, and Greg Nester, who recently took over as chief of the office’s new mental health unit.

A county spokesman declined to comment on the reason for the staff changes.

The former chief of the office, Keir Bradford-Grey, who is now the head of Philadelphia’s public defender's office and Beer’s predecessor in Montgomery County, says word of the firings "should alarm every public defender in the nation." 

She questions the timing, as Beer and Hudson filed on behalf of the ACLU in a lawsuit about the fairness of cash bail.

Hudson tweeted excerpts from that brief.

More from the brief: "Montgomery County is one of many in which the judicial decision-makers of minor courts ... fail to consider alternatives to cash bail, do not take into account the ... ability to pay, and impose excessive bail [to ensure> pretrial incarceration.”

— Keisha Hudson (@khudsonPDLife) February 19, 2020

The ACLU of Pennsylvania also weighed in, asking the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners to say whether that brief played a role in the firings.

Beer had been with the office since September 2013, and Hudson since May 2016.