California Court of Appeal Rules on Statute of Limitations Under POBRA
California Court of Appeal Rules on Statute of Limitations Under POBRA

On November 3, 2022, the California Court of Appeal, Fourth District, issued a decision in the case of Shouse v. County of Riverside (2022) 84 Cal.App.5th 1080, ruling that the one-year statute of limitations under Government Code section 3304(d), the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act (POBRA), did not start to run until the “officer authorized to initiate an investigation knows or has reason to know that the conduct involves actionable misconduct.”  Shouse v. County of Riverside, supra, at 1089

Andrew Shouse a captain for the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office (“Department”), was terminated on April 25, 2017 for several findings of misconduct, including engaging in improper sexual relationships with other Department employees/subordinates.  Shouse appealed his termination pursuant to Government Code section 3304(b), and an eight-day administrative hearing was held.  During the hearing, in addition to claiming that the charges were not supported by the evidence, Shouse claimed that the Department violated the one-year limitation period under POBRA because his superior had heard rumors about Shouse’s relationship with female deputies prior to the start of the investigation in May 2016.  The hearing officer sustained most of the findings of misconduct, found that the discipline was appropriate, and also that the Department did not violate POBRA’s one-year time limit. 

Shouse filed a challenge to the hearing officer’s findings via a petition for writ of mandate to the superior court.  The superior court denied Shouse’s petition, finding that the charges were supported by the evidence and that there was no violation of POBRA.  Shouse then appealed to the Court of Appeal.  On appeal, Shouse only challenged the court’s finding that the Department had not violated POBRA's one-year time limit.  The Court of Appeal held that even though Shouse’s superior had heard rumors of sexual relationships prior to May 2016, it could not be determined that those relationships violated Department policy by being improper.  The Court explained that the underlying relationships were not misconduct, but that it was Shouse’s failure to report the relationships that was improper.

This case is a key example of the importance of utilizing experienced counsel well versed in POBRA during the administrative hearing phase.  When an officer claims a POBRA violation at an administrative hearing, the hearing officer has the authority to rule on that alleged violation.  In Shouse v. County of Riverside, the hearing officer’s ruling in favor of the Department was upheld on appeal.  However, a ruling against an agency could have a devastating impact in a disciplinary case.  Our office specializes in disciplinary matters, and has a team of POBRA experts ready to assist.  

This AALRR post is intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon in reaching a conclusion in a particular area of law. Applicability of the legal principles discussed may differ substantially in individual situations. Receipt of this or any other AALRR publication does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Firm is not responsible for inadvertent errors that may occur in the publishing process. 

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