Robart approves briefing schedule change, but asks for more details

This morning Judge James Robart, who presides over the city’s consent decree with the DOJ over biased policing, issued an order granting the DOJ more time to file its brief. But he also ordered the city to hand over several additional documents that dive into the details of the SPD disciplinary/appeals process and the recently-signed Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the police officers’ union.

As requested last Friday, Robart granted the DOJ an extension until January 9 to file its brief. That allows the department to respond to the city’s brief, due on December 17, rather than filing concurrently without knowledge of what the city intends to say. The city may then file a reply to the DOJ’s brief one week later, on January 16.

Robart also granted the CPC, an outspoken critic of the collective bargaining agreement, the option to file on January 9 instead of December 17, so it too can respond to the city’s brief.

But in a clear sign of where Robart’s thoughts are headed, he asked the city to submit, by January 2, four other pieces of documentation:

  • copies of all breifings filed before the Disciplinary Review Board (DRB) that overturned the termination of Oficer Adley Shepherd;
  • the written decisions of the three-member DRB panel that overturned Shepherd’s termination;
  • the details (in a list, chart, or other form) of how the CBA alters provisions of the police accountability ordinance passed last year;
  • details of how SPD’s disciplinary system and appeals process under the CBA differs from the one in place in July 2012 when the Consent Decree was signed.

The first two items continue Robart’s keen interest in understanding whether the overturning of Shepherd’s termination is a sign that the city has fallen out of compliance with the consent decree.

The latter two highlight the complexity of evaluating whether Robart should approve the CBA. He must measure it against the old CBA, and against the ultimate objective measure of whether it promotes “constitutional policing.” But in doing so, he needs to decide how to weigh the police accountability legislation that the City Council passed last year. The CBA is without doubt a step back from that ordinance’s reforms, but nearly all of the rollbacks relate to issues that under state law are mandatory topics of collective bargaining — and arguably the city should never have legislated those provisions unilaterally.  Robart is likely to find that the new CBA is better than the old one; what’s less clear is whether he will decide that it’s enough for constitutional policing.

Robart has not yet scheduled a hearing, but expect that to follow once all the briefs are filed.