Court of Appeal reaffirms independent judgment standard of review in police officer discipline case

On September 2, 2009, the California Court of Appeal decided the case of Cesar Wences v. City of Los Angeles, Case No. B208525. An off-duty Los Angeles Police Officer carried his gun at his side during a confrontation outside his home with a group of four individuals. The leader of the group made threatening statements and gestures to the officer and his wife. The officer fired his gun into the grass to scare away the group. The Board of Police Commissioners issued an administrative diapproval for unauthorized tactics and inappropriate drawing of a firearm. In hearing the case on appeal, the Superior Court used the substantial evidence standard of review because the case involved only a reprimand. The Court of Appeal reversed and remanded finding that the proper standard of review is the independent judgment test. The Court of Appeal reasoned that the reprimand is a form of discipline which affects a fundamental vested right in employment.

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