Monday, April 1, 2002
Janavs Rules LAPD Consent Decree Issues Cannot Be Heard in State Court
By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer
Matters involving the federal consent decree aimed at reforming the Los Angeles Police Department must be handled in federal, not state, court, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled Friday.
Judge Dzintra I. Janavs declined to lift the stay on the Police Protective League’s suit against the city, saying a state court has no say in the matter because the consent decree was put in place by the federal government and its implementation is currently being overseen by a federal judge.
“Isn’t the consent decree a federal consent decree?” Janavs asked.
The consent decree was signed last June to avoid a total takeover of the LAPD by the Department of Justice which accused the department of “engaging in a pattern or practice” of constitutional violations. The decree lays out mandatory changes in department management, training, and record-keeping procedures.
Janavs said she wanted to avoid a situation where the exact same issue was being handled by two separate courts and suggested that the union take up its bid to be involved in consent decree implementation negotiations in federal court.
“That’s really where it ought to be done, so its not piecemeal with two forums, two courts and dealing with it individually,” she said.
The union, which represents the department’s nearly 9,000 rank-and-file officers, had asked in the suit for the city to hand over the terms and conditions of the consent decree.
The union claims the agreement interferes with collective bargaining rights and accuses the city of violating the Brown Act, which sets the rules for public meetings across the state, by entering into the agreement with the Department of Justice without meeting and conferring with the union.
The union’s attorney, Michael E. Koskie of The Petersen Law Firm in Costa Mesa, urged Janavs to reconsider her decision, accusing the city of continuing to violate the rights of officers by not including the union in implementation negotiations, and suggesting that going through the federal courts could cause inexcusable delays.
“How long is this going to take?” Koskie asked. “This could be up in the federal courts for years and years and years.”
Koskie maintained that without access to state court, LAPD officers have no forum to address their grievances, because they are also being shut out of the process in federal court.
But R. Paul Katrinak, who is representing the city and the LAPD, said the city has been negotiating with the PPL for months to determine how much participation the union should have in those negotiations.
Katrinak, of the law firm Christensen, Miller, Fink, Jacobs, Glaser, Weil & Shapiro, said the city plans to file paperwork in federal court sometime this week that would allow the police union to be heard before U.S. District Judge Gary Feess, who is overseeing the implementation of the consent decree.
Koskie argued that allowing the union into the negotiations would not change the consent degree in any way.
“What’s going to happen is this city’s going to have to talk on a couple of issues it doesn’t want to talk about,” Koskie said.
Outside of court Katrinak told reporters that the city has been cooperating with the union to ensure the protection of the rights of officers.
“There are provisions in the consent decree that specifically protected the union’s rights,” Katrinak said.
Earlier this month, two Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges expressed concern about Feess’ decision to deny the American Civil Liberties Union and the police union the right to intervene in legal proceedings involving the consent decree.
The union seeks either to overturn the decree or to become a party so that it can go to court if implementation results in violations of officers’ rights. The ACLU is not challenging the decree, but seeks the right to bring enforcement proceedings if it is violated.
A Ninth Circuit ruling could be months away.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company