Appealed from the Twenty-Second Judicial District Court In
and for the Parish of St. Tammany, Louisiana Docket Number
2017-12060 Honorable William J. Knight, Judge Presiding
McCreary Slidell, LA and John D. Sileo Casey W. Moll New
Orleans, LA Counsel for Plaintiff/Appellant, Johnnie Sanders.
Michael F. Weiner Covington, LA Counsel for
Defendant/Appellee, City of Mandeville, Municipal Police
BEFORE: WHIPPLE, C.J., McCLENDON AND HIGGINBOTHAM, JJ.
Sanders, a former patrolman for the Mandeville Police
Department (MPD), appeals a judgment of the district court,
which affirmed the decision of the Municipal Police
Employees' Civil Service Board (the Board) to uphold his
termination from the MPD. After reviewing the facts and
applicable law, we hereby convert the appeal to an
application for a supervisory writ and deny the writ.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Sanders, a police officer for the MPD on February 20, 2017,
he was shopping at a Home Depot store in Covington,
Louisiana. He put a Ridgid battery-powered miter saw, a laser
level, and two lithium batteries into his shopping cart.
After he finished shopping, Sanders proceeded to the cash
register, where he paid for the saw and level. As he walked
out of the building, Sanders was confronted by Home Depot
Loss Prevention Specialist Corey Crowe, who asked Sanders
about the batteries. Sanders stated that he believed the
batteries belonged with the Ridgid miter saw and that he
found them on the shelf near the saw. Crowe led Sanders into
his office where he called the St. Tammany Parish Sheriffs
Office. When the Sheriffs deputies arrived, Sanders was
arrested for theft of goods as a result of his shoplifting
the two lithium batteries valued at $168.00.
notice dated February 21, 2017, Sanders was informed that an
Internal Affairs (IA) investigation had begun regarding his
arrest, centering on his violation of Municipal Police
Employees' Civil Service Rule 9.08 and Mandeville
Police Code of Conduct Rule 2 (Unbecoming Conduct) and Rule 3
(Conformance to Laws). Sanders also received a notice dated the
same day, informing him that he was being placed on
administrative leave until his disciplinary hearing.
investigation was led by Lieutenant Vincent Liberto. At the
conclusion of the investigation, Lt. Liberto prepared a
report in which he concluded that Sanders had violated
Municipal Police Employees' Civil Service Rule 9.O8(N)
and Mandeville Police Code of Conduct Rule 2 (Unbecoming
Conduct), Rule 3 (Conformance to Laws), and Rule 40
(Truthfulness). Lt. Liberto submitted his report to
Assistant Chief Ron Ruple, the head of IA at the MPD. After
reviewing the case file, the evidence, and the investigation
conducted by Lt. Liberto, Assistant Chief Ruple agreed with
Lt. Liberto's findings and recommended termination of
Sanders's employment with the MPD. Assistant Chief Ruple
gave this recommendation to Gerald Sticker, Chief of the MPD.
to any discipline being imposed, Sanders was given the
opportunity to present his version of events with regard to
the charges brought against him, at which time he appeared
with his attorney. Following Sanders's appearance with
his attorney, a review of the surveillance footage from the
Home Depot and the entire IA case file, Chief Sticker upheld
the findings as to the rule violations and likewise
determined that dismissal was the warranted course of action.
Accordingly, by notice dated March 17, 2017, Sanders was
given notice of termination of his employment with the MPD,
effective as of the date of the notice.
appealed his dismissal to the Board pursuant to LSA-R.S.
33:2501(A). On April 24, 2017, the Board conducted a full
evidentiary hearing at which numerous people, including
Sanders, testified, and several exhibits, including
surveillance footage from the Home Depot, were introduced
into evidence. Following this hearing, the Board determined,
by a two-to-one vote, to uphold the dismissal.
then appealed the Board's decision to the Twenty-Second
Judicial District Court pursuant to LSA-R.S. 33:2501(E)(1).
After considering the record, the district court found that
the Board's decision was made in good faith for cause.
Consequently, the district court affirmed the Board's
decision to uphold Sanders's termination from the MPD.
filed a devolutive appeal to this court, contending that the
action of the MPD in terminating his employment, as affirmed
by the Board and by the district court, was erroneous due to
the lack of just cause for the dismissal.
outset, we note that the MPD has asserted that this court
lacks appellate jurisdiction over this matter. Moreover, this
court has a duty to examine subject matter jurisdiction on
its own motion, even when the issue is not raised by the
litigants. Monterrey Center, LLC v. Education Partners,
Inc., 2008-0734 (La.App. 1st Cir. 12/23/08), 5 So.3d
review of decisions by the Municipal Fire and Police Civil
Service Boards resulting in a discharge or any corrective or
disciplinary action is granted pursuant to LSA-R.S.
33:2561(E), which provides as follows:
Any employee under classified service and any appointing
authority may appeal from any decision of the board or from
any action taken by the board under the provisions of this
Part which is prejudicial to the employee or appointing
authority. This appeal shall lie direct to the court of
original and unlimited jurisdiction in civil suits of the
parish wherein the board is domiciled. This appeal shall be
taken by serving the board, within thirty days after entry of
its decision, a written notice of appeal stating the grounds
thereof and demanding that a certified transcript of the
record or written findings of fact and all papers on file in
the office of the board affecting or relating to such
decisions be filed with the designated court. The board
shall, within ten days after the filing of the notice of
appeal, make, certify, and file the complete transcript with
the designated court, and that court thereupon shall proceed
to hear and determine the appeal in a summary manner. This
hearing shall be confined to the determination of whether the
decision made by the board was made in good faith for cause
under the provisions of this Part or to whether a board
member should have or failed to recuse himself in accordance
with Subsection D of this Section. No appeal to the court
shall be taken except upon these grounds.
recognized by the Louisiana Supreme Court, the district court
has subject matter jurisdiction to consider an appeal
pursuant to LSA-R.S. 33:2561(E). Moreover, because appellate
jurisdiction is vested in the district court pursuant to
LSA-R.S. 33:2561(E), the intermediate appellate courts lack
appellate jurisdiction over these matters. Miazza v. City
of Mandeville, 2010-0304 (La. 5/21/10), 34 So.3d 849.
Nonetheless, in Miazza, the Supreme Court directed
this court to convert the plaintiffs appeal of the district
court's judgment to an application for supervisory writs.
Miazza, 34 So.3d at 849. Since the Supreme
Court's pronouncements in Miazza, this court has
on numerous occasions converted appeals of this nature to
applications for supervisory writs. See Beck v. City of
Baker, 2011-0803 (La.App. 1st Cir. 9/10/12), 102 So.3d
887, 889 n.1, writ denied, 2012-2455 (La. 1/11/13), 107 So.3d
617; Dwyer v. West Feliciana Fire Protection District #1
Civil Service Board, 2011-1096 (La.App. 1st Cir.
12/21/11), 80 So.3d 1229, 1230 n.1; McGee v. St.Tammany Parish Fire Protection Dist. No. 1,
2010-1894, p. 2 (La.App. 1st Cir. 5/6/11) (unpublished), 2011
WL 2616831; Baton Rouge Police Department v.O'Malley, 2010-1386 (La.App. 1st Cir. 3/25/11),
64 So.3d 773, 774 n.1; and Meiners v. St. Tammany Fire
Protection District #4 Board Of ...