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Russo v. Clark County School District

United States District Court, D. Nevada

March 26, 2019

ANTHONY RUSSO, Plaintiffs,


         Presently before the court is plaintiff Anthony Russo's (“plaintiff”) motion for partial summary judgment.[1] (ECF No. 69). Defendants Clark County School District (“CCSD”), Edward Goldman (“Goldman”), and James Ketsaa (“Ketsaa”) (collectively “defendants”) filed a response (ECF No. 78), to which plaintiff replied (ECF No. 81).

         Also before the court is defendants' motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 72). Plaintiff filed a response (ECF No. 75), to which defendants replied (ECF No. 82).


         Plaintiff brought the instant civil action under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (ECF No. 49 at 1). Plaintiff seeks damages against defendants for allegedly depriving plaintiff of his due process right to a hearing before being suspended and terminated. (ECF No. 49 at 5-6).

         Plaintiff is employed by defendants as a police officer with CCSD Police Department. (ECF No. 69 at 2). Police Officers Association of CCSD (hereafter “POA”) is a bargaining agent for all regular status employees. (ECF No. 69 at 2). Plaintiff is a regular status employee. (ECF No. 69 at 2). Under Article 35-1 of the collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) between POA and CCSD, “a Regular Status Employee may be suspended, demoted or dismissed for just cause.” (ECF No. 69 at 2).

         On September 5, 2015, plaintiff was involved in a car accident with a teenaged driver while off-duty. (ECF No. 72 at 3). After the collision, plaintiff exited his vehicle, walked over to the passenger side of the other vehicle, and began punching the teenaged passenger in the head. (ECF No. 72 at 4). Bystanders attempted to pull plaintiff off the teenager. Id. Plaintiff then pulled out his gun. Plaintiff was arrested for suspicion of DUI, possession of a gun under the influence, drawing a deadly weapon in a threatening manner, two counts of battery, and failure to obey a traffic signal. (ECF No. 69 at 3).

         On September 9, 2015, plaintiff met with defendant Ketsaa for ten minutes, where he was provided oral notice of the charges against him. (No. 72-1 at 55). After the meeting, plaintiff received a letter from defendant Ketsaa pursuant to Article 35-7 of the CBA between POA and CCSD. (ECF No. 72-1 at 55). The letter informed plaintiff that an administrative investigation was being conducted regarding plaintiff's arrest. (ECF No. 72-1 at 55). The letter provided notice to plaintiff that he was indefinitely suspended without pay pending the outcome of the investigation. (ECF No. 69 at 3).

         On September 9, 2015, CCSD also provided plaintiff with a “notification of possible disciplinary action.” (ECF No. 72-1 at 57). This letter notified plaintiff of an upcoming interview in which plaintiff was entitled to have two representatives. The representatives could be lawyers, labor union representatives, or other peace officers. (ECF No. 72-1 at 57).

         On September 18, 2015, plaintiff received a letter scheduling an “administrative interview” for September 29, 2015. (ECF No. 72-1 at 60). The letter again notified plaintiff of the charges against him as well as his entitlement to representation. (ECF No. 72-1 at 60).

         An hour-long investigatory interview was conducted on September 29, 2015. (ECF No. 75-2 at 3-4). Plaintiff's attorney was present. (ECF No. 75-2 at 3). Plaintiff was provided oral notice of the charges against him and the evidence then existing against him. (ECF No. 75-2 at 3).

         On November 5, 2015, plaintiff was convicted of DUI and one count of battery. (ECF No. 72-1 at 112). The remaining charges were dropped. (ECF No. 69 at 3).

         On November 17, 2015, CCSD sent plaintiff a “notice of disciplinary action- recommendation for dismissal.” (ECF No. 72-1 at 116). The letter informed plaintiff of defendant's intent to recommend plaintiff's termination. (ECF No. 72-1 at 116). The letter then outlined what rules CCSD alleged plaintiff violated:

         Grounds for these actions and the specific rules violated are CCSD Regulation 4343(I)(A):

4. Discourteous treatment of the public;

5. Violence or behavior that threatens violence directed at another person;

14. Conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude or immorality;

15. Failure to follow the rules and regulations of the District (specifically the General Orders of the CCSD Police Department).

(ECF No. 72-1 at 116). The letter contained a detailed description of the facts upon which these grounds were based, including plaintiff's testimony he provided at his September 29 interview. (ECF No. 72-1 at 117). Lastly, the letter notified plaintiff of his right to respond to the recommendation, including the option of an evidentiary hearing to determine if the facts and circumstances warranted the recommended disciplinary action. Id.

         On January 7, 2016, the evidentiary hearing was held regarding CCSD's recommendation for plaintiff's dismissal. (ECF No. 73 at 1). Plaintiff's attorney, speaking on plaintiff's behalf, explained plaintiff's position regarding the termination. (ECF No. 73 at 2). The recommendation for dismissal was thereafter accepted and plaintiff was dismissed. (ECF No. 69 at 6).

         Meanwhile POA filed a grievance regarding plaintiff's unpaid suspension. (ECF No. 72 at 6). On November 20, 2015, CCSD denied the grievance and upheld the unpaid suspension. (ECF No. 72 at 7). On November 30, 2015, POA again filed a grievance regarding the unpaid suspension and requested arbitration. Id. After the January 7 evidentiary hearing, POA filed a grievance contesting the dismissal ...

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