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Los Angeles Police Protective League v. City of Los Angeles

California Court of Appeals, Second District, Fourth Division

December 9, 2014

LOS ANGELES POLICE PROTECTIVE LEAGUE et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants,
v.
CITY OF LOS ANGELES et al., Defendants and Respondents.

APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles Country, No. BS136895 James C. Chalfant, Judge.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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COUNSEL

Silver, Hadden, Silver, Wexler & Levine, Richard A. Levine and Jacob A. Kalinski, for Plaintiffs and Appellants.

Michael N. Feuer, City Attorney, Gregory P. Orland, Deputy City Attorney, for Defendants and Respondents.

OPINION

EPSTEIN, P. J.

In this case we hold that the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act (POBRA) (Gov. Code, § 3300 et seq.)[1] does not afford officers the right to an administrative appeal of a transfer of assignment, which does not affect compensation or other specified rights, solely because the transfer may lead to negative employment consequences, or upon the officer’s belief to that effect. Instead, as the statute specifically requires, the transfer must be “for purposes of punishment.”

Appellants Los Angeles Police Protective League (League), Won Chu, and Felicia Hall appeal from a judgment denying their petition for writ of mandate and request for declaratory relief. Appellants Hall and Chu are public safety officers employed by respondent City of Los Angeles (City) and represented by the League.[2] Appellants argue that the POBRA and the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the City and the League entitle Chu and Hall to an administrative appeal of their involuntary transfers. We disagree and affirm the judgment.

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FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL SUMMARY

Hall was hired as a peace officer for the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) in 1985 and was promoted to lieutenant in March 2003. On or about March 2008, she was assigned to the robbery/homicide division (Robbery/Homicide Division), where she served as the officer in charge of the sexual assault section. In October 2010, Hall’s supervisor issued a comment sheet criticizing her counseling, communication, and management skills toward her subordinate employees. She received a negative standard based assessment in April 2011. During this time, Hall’s supervisors communicated with Hall about their concerns, but there was “no satisfactory resolution.” David R. Doan, the chief of detectives in charge of the Robbery/Homicide Division at the time, decided that “Hall’s skills as a supervisor were not a good match for [the Robbery/Homicide Division’s] Sexual Assault Section.” It was determined, after discussing the matter with Hall’s supervisors, that “either Lieutenant Hall had to make significant changes to her interpersonal skills or a significant number of her subordinates would leave the section.”[3] Doan and Hall’s supervisors decided to transfer her to the juvenile division (Juvenile Division to “give [Hall] a fresh start in an environment better suited to her skills” and because it served the “best interests of the Department.” Hall retained her rank and pay as a lieutenant. She was denied an administrative appeal of the transfer under section 3304, subdivision (b). According to Doan, the morale and performance of the sexual assault section improved; Hall’s supervisor at the Juvenile Division stated Hall had been a “good addition” to the division and had been performing her duties satisfactorily. However, Hall claims that, as a result of the transfer, she has not been able to work as many overtime hours and is no longer entitled to a department-issued take-home vehicle, which was available at her prior assignment. She also stated her opinion that her “stigmatizing involuntary transfer” and the “practice of not promoting Lieutenants assigned to Juvenile Division to Captains” will adversely affect her future promotional opportunities.

Chu was hired as a peace officer in 1985 and was assigned to the Rampart division as a detective in March 2000. In December 2010, he was administratively charged with three counts: creating a hostile work environment by sexually harassing a coworker, inappropriately touching her, and making “inappropriate remarks of a sexual nature.” He was temporarily relieved from duty effective January 2011 pending a hearing and decision on the charges. In May 2011, after a hearing, the board of rights found Chu not guilty of the first two counts but found him guilty on the third count. After receiving an

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official reprimand, Chu was restored to his position as detective in the Rampart division. Chu was again relieved from duty in June 2011 when another complaint alleging sexual harassment and inappropriate communications was lodged against him. Because the complainant refused to cooperate, the LAPD closed the file and did not seek further disciplinary proceedings. Steven Ruiz, Chu’s commanding officer at the time, stated in his declaration that during Chu’s pending board actions, many of the Rampart employees learned of the allegations against Chu. This resulted in what Ruiz perceived to be “damaged relationships with co-workers and reduced [Chu’s] effectiveness in working at Rampart.” Ruiz discussed the matter with Lieutenant Losorelli, Chu’s superior, and they agreed it would be in the “best interests of Detective Chu and the Department” to transfer Chu to another division, where he would be afforded a “fresh start with new co-workers.” The transfer, according to Ruiz, was not intended as punishment for Chu’s alleged misconduct. Chu was permitted to choose the division to which he wished to be transferred. He requested an administrative appeal pursuant to section 3304, subdivision (b), but the request was denied. Chu claims that, as a result of his transfer, he was monitored by the LAPD risk management executive committee (RMEC), placed on restrictive duty status, which prohibited him from carrying a gun, and suffered from a damaged reputation within the LAPD.

Appellants filed a petition for writ of mandate and a complaint for declaratory relief on behalf of Chu, Hall, and all officers belonging to the League. The trial court denied the petition and denied declaratory relief. It found that “[a]n officer’s contention that a transfer is punitive is insufficient by itself to warrant an administrative appeal hearing.” The trial court also found Chu’s and Hall’s transfers were imposed for purposes other than punishment and would not lead to adverse employment consequences.

This timely appeal followed.

DISCUSSION

I

“In a petition for writ of mandate brought pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 1085, ... the petitioner bears the burden of pleading and proving the facts on which the claim for relief is based. [Citations.]” (California Correctional Peace Officers Assn. v. State Personnel Bd. (1995) 10 Cal.4th 1133, 1153-1154 [43 Cal.Rptr.2d 693, 899 P.2d 79].) In reviewing the trial court’s ruling on a writ of mandate, we ordinarily are confined to an inquiry of whether the findings and judgment of the trial court are supported by substantial ...


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