Tuesday, February 5, 2002
Fired Black Police Officer’s Lawsuit Against Glendale Will Not Proceed, Superior Court Judge Rules
By NICK YULICO, Staff Writer
An African American Glendale police officer who alleges he was fired because of his race will not have his lawsuit proceed, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled yesterday, but the man’s attorneys said they would appeal.
Ken Adams filed his lawsuit against the City of Glendale in September 1997 after his firing in April of that year.
Retired Judge Ricardo Torres, sitting on assignment, bifurcated to hear a motion introduced by the defense that the plaintiff was collaterally estopped from proceeding because he failed to exhaust his remedies.
Torres granted the motion yesterday.
The case has a long history in the courts. After the lawsuit was filed, the defense lost a summary judgment motion as well as appeals to the Court of Appeal and the state Supreme Court.
The case was then assigned to a new Superior Court judge and the defense, citing recent rulings, filed a second summary judgment motion. The motion again was denied and the Court of Appeal again rejected the appeal.
The case was then sent to Torres and the defense’s motion was filed last week.
The reason for Adams’ termination was a question of hot debate between the two sides, with Adams’ attorneys claiming it was racially motivated and the City of Glendale’s attorneys saying it was performance-related.
While Adams’s attorneys, Greg Dordick and Cara Lin Eisenberg, tried to introduce past evidence of racist policies at the Glendale Police Department in the late 80s, Torres barred introduction of the evidence, which included numerous racist cartoons deeming African Americans “n-----s” and “coons” that were unveiled in a past lawsuit, Jauregui v. City of Glendale.
Donna Melby, an attorney representing the City of Glendale, said Adams was fired for performance reasons and not because of race.
“None of those past allegations [of racism] against the Glendale Police Department had to do with Adams,” Melby said. “They had no bearing on this case. This case had to do with Adams’ poor performance and with due process.”
The case boiled down to whether Adams received a fair “quasi-judicial hearing” in his appeal of his termination, Melby said.
After receiving a letter from the city stating that he was facing termination for incompetence, Adams was offered the opportunity to appeal through a city administrative program. Adams’ attorneys claimed the hearings, which consisted of Adams meeting several times with assistant city manager Robert McFall, who was to review the department’s findings and make a decision, were not judicial or quasi-judicial.
Torres ruled that Adams did have a fair judicial hearing with McFall and that he did not exhaust his judicial remedies since he failed to appeal to Glendale’s Civil Services Commission.
Dordick disagreed with the judge’s denial of an opportunity to proceed.
“We respectfully disagree,” Dordick said. “We intend to appeal at the first opportunity. We’re disappointed.”
Melby added that the Glendale Police Department “is a good place to be now no matter who you are” and that Adams’ attorneys introduction of race was an “attempt to poison the well.”
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company