Conviction Of Misdemeanor Crime Of Domestic Violence Extinguishes Due Process Rights

William Arganda was employed as a peace officer by the City of Westminster, California. Following an internal investigation, Arganda was served with a Notice of Intent to Terminate on August 11, 2009, for multiple violations of Department policy involving unauthorized use of the law enforcement data system for personal business. After a pre-disciplinary hearing, the City terminated Arganda. Arganda made a timely request for a post-disciplinary appeal hearing, and…

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No Due Process Rights When Entire Department Eliminated

A group of officers with the Los Angeles County Office of Public Safety (OPS) sued the County, claiming their due process rights were violated when the County consolidated the operations of the Office into the Sheriff’s Department. The officers contended, among other things, that they were automatically entitled to sworn positions in the Sheriff’s Department. The federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed with the officers and dismissed their…

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Due Process Hearing Need Not Follow Evidentiary Rules

Captain Calvin Bankhead is a 25-year veteran of the Gary, Indiana Fire Department. In November 2001, Bankhead was selected for random drug testing. When Bankhead’s test results showed that he had consumed marijuana, the City’s Civil Service Commission demoted him, suspended him for nine months, and subjected him to additional random tests. Bankhead challenged the Commission’s decision, arguing that the records of his drug test should not have been…

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Placement On Unpaid Leave Of Absence Requires Due Process

Antonio Giusto was a police officer with the City of San Mateo, California. In January 2003, Giusto filed a workers’ compensation claim on the basis of stress and depression following a non-disciplinary counseling session with his supervisor. As a result, the City placed Giusto on paid administrative leave pending a fitness-for-duty evaluation. Giusto was examined by a psychiatrist, Norman Reynolds, who reported that Giusto was not fit for duty….

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In Facebook Case, Due Process Violation When Employer Fails To Comply With Own Procedures

Damond Harris is a police officer with the New Orleans Police Department. In January 2010, Harris engaged in a Facebook conversation with another officer, William Torres. Torres started the conversation by posting: “Thanks for the shots last night. Btw, You shouldn’t of cut your hair. Bowl haircuts are for boys. Oh, tell your ex g/f better not tell me s–––, because we went out after your break up. A.M….

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Disability Termination Requires Due Process

John Turner was employed by the Arizona Department of Public Safety as a sworn, full-time highway patrol officer. In October 2008, Turner’s personal psychologist contacted the Department and advised that Turner be temporarily relieved from duty so that he could be treated for psychosis and paranoid schizophrenia, which was causing him to see demons in traffic violators. The Department promptly relieved Turner from duty and placed him on paid…

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‘Live Burn’ Training Exercise Resulting In Firefighter’s Death Does Not Violate Due Process

On February 9, 2007, Racheal Wilson, a new recruit with the Baltimore City Fire Department, participated in a live burn training exercise staged at a vacant three-story building in Baltimore. The live burn exercise was required as part of the training program for aspiring Baltimore City firefighters. To stage the building for the exercise, officials of the Fire Department tore down wall-boards and ceilings to create debris and stuffed…

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Mass Demotion of Fire Officers Does Not Violate Due Process

In the summer of 2010, Lawrence Township, Indiana was in serious discussions with the City of Indianapolis regarding the Lawrence Township Fire Department merging with the Indianapolis Fire Department. Before any merger could take place, however, the Township had to make certain adjustments to the ranks of its officers. Indianapolis was willing to accept only 15 officers (five captains and ten lieutenants), and would not accept any battalion chiefs….

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Bias Of One Panel Member Taints Entire Decision-Making Process

Liam Sullivan was the Chief of the Town of Elsmere, Massachusetts Police Department. A panel consisting of the Town Council and the Mayor held a public hearing to decide on Sullivan’s employment future. Sullivan made a motion to disqualify one Council member – by the name of Jaremchuk – on the ground that a previous conflict between him and Sullivan tainted his impartiality. The Mayor denied the motion, the…

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Volunteer Firefighter Has No Property Right To Job

Matthew Preston was a volunteer firefighter with the City of Pleasant Hill, Iowa. After questions about Preston’s medical certification were raised, the City first suspended Preston, and then placed him on two years of probation and imposed several performance requirements. Preston thought the requirements were unacceptable and sued the City, claiming his due process rights were violated. The federal Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed Preston’s lawsuit. Preston’s argument…

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Due Process Requires Hearing Before Suspension Without Pay

Michael Schmidt was hired in November 2002 by the Department of General Services of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to serve as a patrol officer with the Capitol Police. The Department investigated Schmidt on charges that he failed to report to his assigned post, had disobeyed work orders, and had shown disrespect and insubordination to his supervisor. Within three days of the precipitating incident, the Department suspended Schmidt without pay….

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Police Chief Has Property Right To Job

Ken Thomason was the Chief for the City of St. Elmo, Illinois Police Department from February 1993 until November 2009. Shortly after Larry Tish was elected mayor in the spring of 2009, he met with Thomason and made clear and certain promises to Thomason of continued employment as Chief of Police. Things turned, however. The City terminated Thomason, and in a lawsuit filed later, Thomason alleged that “at a…

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Trooper-Lawyers Lose Ability To Practice

Before 2007, the New Jersey Code of Ethics and the New Jersey Division of State Police Standard Operating Procedure Manual permitted State Police employees, including troopers, to engage in the private practice of law with the Attorney General’s approval. A number of troopers engaged in the practice of law, writing wills, bringing and defending lawsuits, and drafting contracts. In 2007, the State Ethics Commission for the Department of Law…

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Court Invalidates “Last Chance” Agreement And Orders LAPD Officer Reinstated

By Michael P. Stone and Melanie C. Smith In situations where peace officers face termination for misconduct, arrangements known as “last chance” agreements have become a popular settlement option. Under one of these agreements, the officer receives a final opportunity to address misconduct and performance problems, in exchange for agreeing to accept termination as the penalty for future misconduct. While these agreements theoretically save jobs, and are an attractive…

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Injury Leave Does Not Extend Firefighter’s Probationary Period

The probationary periods of newly-hired employees are occasionally interrupted by injury or sick leave, used either for job-related or off-the-job injuries and illnesses. In the absence of specific language dealing with the issue, can an employer extend probationary periods by the amount of time missed due to leave? The federal Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals answered the question “no,” at least insofar as Illinois law is concerned. The case…

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Court Upholds Jury’s Verdict In Favor Of Deputy Sheriff

Norman Sallitt was a deputy sheriff for Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. Sallitt sued the County, alleging that the Sheriff and his chief deputy retaliated against him for supporting the Sheriff’s political opponent in an election. As part of the retaliation, Sallitt asserted that he was suspended from his position for nine months, and lost opportunities to obtain higher-paying employment with the Pennsylvania State Police and the United States Marshal’s Service….

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Due Process Not Implicated By Officer’s Unsafe Working Environmen

Natalie Mims was a correctional officer in the Philadelphia prison system. Sims sued the City, contending that she was forced to resign her job. Sims alleged among other claims that the City failed to provide her with a safe working environment, and that the failure to do so violated her rights to “substantive” due process. A federal court dismissed Mims’ substantive due process claim. The Court found that substantive…

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Statute Can Create Due Process Rights

Anthony Sawl, who has approximately 25 years of law enforcement experience, was hired as a patrol officer for the West Kittanning, Pennsylvania Police Department in October 2005, and was promoted to Lieutenant in January 2007. The Department employs fewer than three full-time officers. On September 29, 2007, a City Council member was involved in an incident at an event held at a local fire hall where the organizers had…

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Civil Service Hearing Meets Due Process Requirements

Matthew Skogen was a police officer with the City of Overland Park, Kansas. On March 30, 2008, Skogen was involved in an off-duty confrontation with his brother that a citizen reported to the Department. After investigating the matter, the Department terminated Skogen, who appealed to the Overland Park Civil Service Commission. When the Commission upheld his termination, Skogen filed a lawsuit in federal court, alleging that the Commission’s procedures…

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Influx Of High-Security Inmates Does Not Violate Due Process Rights Of Corrections Officers

Albert Basso was a corrections officer with the Michigan Department of Corrections. Basso was injured in a prison riot at the Ojibway Correctional Facility in April 2006. The year before, the State decided to allow the Facility to accept a higher security level of inmates than it was originally equipped to handle. Basso sued the State, alleging in part that the influx of higher-security inmates violated his procedural due…

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Attorney Violates Firefighter’s Due Process Rights In Disability Hearing

Darren Williams, a firefighter with the Village of Morton Grove, Illinois, filed an application for a line-of-duty disability pension with the Board of Trustees of the Morton Grove Firefighters’ Pension Fund. Williams contended that he injured his right shoulder while responding to an ambulance call during which he transferred a patient from an ambulance cot to a hospital bed. The local Pension Board consisted of three firefighters, the president…

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Back Pay A Remedy For Violation Of Maryland’s Bill Of Rights

Calvin Elliott was a deputy sheriff with the Howard County, Maryland Sheriff's Department. When the Department terminated him, Elliott filed a lawsuit contending that he had been discharged without the hearing required by Maryland's statutory Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights. A trial court agreed with Elliott, and ordered Elliott reinstated with back pay. The County challenged the reinstatement order in the Maryland Court of Appeals. The County's main…

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Hearing Board Fails To Give Police Officer Adequate Notice Or Grant Continuance

Stewart Becker was a police officer with the Sunset City, Utah Police Department. Becker was terminated on April 4, 2007, and was given a letter that briefly outlined the appeals process, including his rights to a hearing, to be represented by counsel, to examine evidence, and to confront witnesses. The letter, however, did not mention the requirement that the “City Appeal Board’s” decision had to be made within 15…

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Explorer Scout Has No Property Right

Matthew Zwilling was a member of the Madison, Connecticut Police Explorer Post. When the City terminated him, Zwilling sued, claiming his termination violated his due process rights. A federal court rejected the lawsuit, finding that Zwilling had no property right to his position in the Explorer Post. The Court noted that “property interests are not created by the Constitution. Rather they are created and their dimensions are defined by…

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Uninvolved Decision Makers Not Required In Small Town

Louisville, Colorado is a city of slightly less than 20,000 people. Jerry Riggins was employed as a police officer with the Louisville Police Department. In May 2004, he experienced a psychiatric episode in which he complained that someone was after him, his hotel room was bugged, and there was a computer chip implanted in his head. His wife reported the incident, and he was taken to a hospital and…

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