Monday, October 1, 2012

Court of Appeal Rules Administrative Hearing Officers May Hear Pitchess Motions in Peace Officer Discipline Cases

In Riverside County Sheriff’s Department v. Jan Stiglitz (September 28, 2012) 2012 WL 4466333, the Court of Appeal decided peace officers can obtain Pitchess discovery in an administrative hearing provided under POBR. The case started after the Riverside County Sheriff's Department fired a correctional deputy for falsifying her time records. The officer appealed her termination. She asserted that the penalty of termination was disproportionate. She asked the hearing officer for discovery of disciplinary records of other Department personnel who had been investigated or disciplined for similar misconduct. After the hearing officer granted the request, the Department went to court to stop it.

The Court ruled Pitchess discovery is available in a Section 3304(b) administrative hearing if it is relevant. The Court reasoned that POBR entitles officers to a full evidentiary hearing, including relevant discovery. The Court decided that though the Evidence Code sections codifying the Pitchess process were ambiguous, they do not preclude administrative hearing officers from considering requests for peace officers' personnel files under some circumstances.