City Of Milwaukee Stares Down Court, Loses

Philip Sliwinski was a Milwaukee, Wisconsin police detective until he was fired in November 2002. As was his right, Sliwinski appealed his discharge to the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners of the City of Milwaukee. The Board held an evidentiary trial on Sliwinski’s appeal and upheld the discharge. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals reversed the decision, finding that the Board’s trial on Sliwinski’s discharge violated his right to a “due process-compliant trial.” The Court remanded the case to the Board “for a new hearing that complies with Sliwinski’s due process rights.”

The City refused to either reinstate Sliwinski or pay him his normal pay and benefits. Sliwinski and the Milwaukee Police Association sought a “writ of mandamus” that would contain an order forcing the City to reinstate Sliwinski to his position as a police officer. The Association and Sliwinski also sought an order that until Sliwinski was reinstated, he was entitled to all pay and benefits. The City contended that because the Board “disposed of” Sliwinski’s appeal it had no obligation to give him either his pay or benefits.

The Milwaukee Court of Appeals ordered the City to pay Sliwinski his pay and benefits in a tersely-worded opinion. The Court noted: “Sliwinski has not yet had his trial despite our order requiring it. Simply put, the legitimacy of Sliwinski’s discharge will not be disposed of by the Board until it fully complies with our order.

“We conclude that Sliwinski has under Wisconsin law a clear, specific legal right which is free from substantial doubt, and that the City’s obligation under that law is positive and plain, and that because Sliwinski is not receiving his pay and benefits as the law requires, he is suffering substantial damage, and that he and the Police Association have no adequate remedy at law. We direct the Circuit Court to issue a writ of mandamus ordering the City to conduct forthwith the due process-compliant trial we directed in our previous opinion. Until it does, Sliwinski is entitled to his pay and benefits.”

Milwaukee Police Association v. City of Milwaukee, 2008 WL 2466380 (Wis.App. 2008).

This article appears in the August 2008 issue