G&A Win: Modesto PD to Remove a Letter of Reprimand from Officer’s Personnel File

The Stanislaus County Superior Court has granted the Petition for Writ of Mandate filed by Goyette & Associates, Inc. on behalf of a Modesto Police Officer. The Writ of Mandate will direct the City of Modesto and Modesto Police Department to remove a letter of reprimand and related documents from the Officer’s personnel file as a result of the Modesto Police Department’s failure to comply with statutory time limits for imposing disciplinary action on the officer.

The Petition was based on Government Code Section 3304 (f) which requires that a public agency notify an officer of disciplinary action within 30 days of its decision to impose the discipline. In this case, the Modesto Police Department issued the officer a preliminary notice of intent to impose discipline, and then waited more than 5 months before taking the action and notifying the officer. Counsel for the City of Modesto opposed the Petition on various procedural and substantive grounds.

The Court initially issued a tentative ruling on February 4, 2010 denying the Petition on various grounds, including that Subsection (f) does not provide a remedy for a violation of the 30-day time period. Goyette & Associates attorney John McCaslin requested a hearing on the tentative ruling, and the Court heard arguments from counsel for both parties. At the conclusion of oral arguments, the judge took the matter under submission, but indicated that he was inclined to change his initial ruling based on the arguments. On February 10, 2010, the Court issued a Minute Order reversing the tentative ruling and granting the Petition.