OGDEN, Utah — An appellate attorney based in Montana has sued a Utah county alleging his free-speech rights were violated when he was fired after speaking publicly about a lack of funding in a death penalty case.

Samuel Newton filed the lawsuit in federal court last week against Weber County and its three commissioners.

Newton had a contract with the county to represent death row inmate Douglas Lovell in his appeal. He withdrew from Lovell’s case in September, saying the county had created conflicts of interest and that payment problems were causing stress-related medical issues.

The county severed Newton’s contract to represent indigent defendants after finding his comments “harmful to the county’s reputation.”

Weber County District Attorney Christopher Allred said Tuesday Newton’s contract was terminated partly because he made repeated misrepresentations about the county’s willingness to pay for his services.