Making Employers Prove Their Claims

James M. Cool

Case Conclusion Date:March 1, 2011

Practice Area:Administrative Law

Outcome:All Discipline Reversed

Description:In February 2011, Aiken Schenk attorney James Cool represented a northern Arizona deputy sheriff in her due process appeal from a 30-hour suspension. The suspension was discipline for "damaging county property due to negligence." The County alleged that our client negligently backed her work vehicle into her personal vehicle, causing approximately $2,000 in damage. In Arizona, law enforcement officers have a constitutionally protected right to their continued employment and may be terminated or seriously disciplined only for just cause. In a hearing before the county Appeals Board, Cool successfully challenged the negligence allegation, citing numerous inaccuracies in the reports that provided the basis for the disciplinary action. He also argued that Arizona law does not presume negligence simply because an accident occurred, and he presented evidence that the deputy client had done everything she was trained to do and had acted as a reasonably careful person would under the same circumstances. Finding no evidence of negligence, the Appeals Board reversed the suspension, cleared the deputy's record and restored her lost wages. James successfully moved to dismiss the County's appeal on procedural grounds, preserving our client's victory. The reversal of the deputy's suspension marked the first successful challenge of that type before the personnel board in that county's history.