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Judge plans to make decision in Chapman case within 10 days

The judge hearing opposing motions in the $6.35 million lawsuit brought by a former Loudoun detective against Sheriff Mike Chapman (R) and the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors said Friday he hopes to make a decision on submitted motions within the next 10 days.

The hearing at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Alexandria centered around Chapman and the Board of Supervisors' motion to dismiss the suit, along with a separate motion for summary judgment filed by the attorney of former Loudoun detective Mark McCaffrey, who brought the suit against Chapman and the county.

McCaffrey was present in court to hear the proceedings. Chapman was not in attendance.

The original lawsuit was filed in July by McCaffrey, who claimed he was wrongfully terminated from his position after supporting Chapman's Republican primary election challenger for sheriff in 2015, Eric Noble. The former LCSO detective said his termination violated the U.S. and Virginia constitutions.

The four-count, 50-page suit seeks compensatory money damages against all the defendants of $3.5 million, punitive damages against Chapman of $2.5 million for an alleged federal constitutional violation and $350,000 for the state constitutional violation, which is capped by Virginia law.

McCaffrey's attorney, Robert Cynkar, previously argued that the county and the Board of Supervisors are joined in the lawsuit because the board entered into a cooperative agreement with the sheriff, a local constitutional officer, in which the board assumed county responsibility for the personnel actions of the sheriff and adopted rules that apply across the board to protect the constitutional rights of county employees and employees of the sheriff’s office.

On Friday, Judge Anthony Trenga heard arguments from Chapman's attorney, Alexander Francuzenko, who asked for the court to dismiss the case. Francuzenko talked about McCaffrey as a high-profile lead detective who was at a level where decisions on policy came into play, as opposed to a street-level deputy. Chapman was “within his rights not to re-swear” McCaffrey, Francuzenko said. Francuzenko said there wasn't a need to go to summary judgment and that previous case law should be applied and “the case cut off now.”

Representing the county Board of Supervisors, Courtney Sydnor, deputy county attorney for Loudoun County, said the board was not liable for the actions of an elected sheriff who was not a county employee.

“The locality is only liable for own acts or acts authorized by the county,” she added.

Sydnor presented arguments for why the case should not be based on the cooperative agreement between the board and sheriff. The county's grievance policies do not apply to LCSO deputies, she said.

“The deputies are employees of the sheriff's,” Sydnor said. “The agreement does not overrule the sheriff's authority. The county assumes a duty to protect employees, the sheriff did not give up his authority to the county.”

Sydnor went on to argue that even if the county could overrule, that duty would have lapsed on Dec. 31, 2015, the last day of Chapman's first term, when the cooperative agreement expired. Dec. 31 was the day McCaffrey's employment with the sheriff's office ended.

Sydnor said McCaffrey's attorney's argument that the county was involved in Chapman's alleged retaliation against McCaffrey were not based on facts but on a conspiracy theory.

“The county has no authority to approve or disapprove. Any decision by the sheriff not to reappoint a deputy is not officially sanctioned,” she said.

Cynkar then took to the stand and stated what he said were three facts. First, that McCaffrey voted in the Republican primary for Chapman's opponent to become sheriff. Second, that McCaffrey had a yard sign supporting Chapman's opponent, andthirdly that Chapman, because of the other two facts, terminated McCaffrey's career.

He said McCaffrey wasn't involved in the policy-making process, adding the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office was the largest sheriff's office in Virginia, with more than 600 deputies, and policy was passed on to detectives by division commanders.

Patrick McSweeney, also representing McCaffrey, provided counter-arguments to the county's motion that the case against the county Board of Supervisors be dismissed.

McSweeney said Dec. 10 should be seen as pivotal date. That was when McCaffrey received a letter notifying him his job would be terminated, and how that decision was made when the cooperative agreement between the sheriff and the board was still in place.

The county's handbook states that county employees are protected against cohesion for partisan political purposes, McSweeney said.

“The county did nothing ... They had a duty to act based on protecting constitutional rights of employees,” he added.

Sydnor took the stand a final time to stress the separation between the county and the sheriff's office.

Judge Trenga asked Cynkar what the county Board of Supervisors should have done.

“The county is a backstop,” Cynkar said. “If the county becomes aware of a sheriff violating H.R. policies of the county, they can suspend some budget payments to the sheriff's office.”

“I'll get an opinion to you as soon as I can,” Trenga told the court, adding he aimed to make a decision within 10 days.

Comments


Regulator, what poaiti9n do you hold when not opining on the chat boards? Btw, have you read any case law on this or are you going on gut? A case can “proceed” on appeal you know.


I read with amusement the analysis of the McCaffrey case and how people state he will lose. It appears most of the analysis are void of the entire facts of what transpired in court and the legal analysis is rudimentary at best.  It is probably a 50-50 proposition to determine what a judge will rule in a decision.

There were two major statements and actions taken by the judge that based on 20 plus years of appearing in court were very telling. The first was the statement he made that followed the statement that he would render his decision in 10 days.  The statement “how the case is going to proceed” is a clue that he is not going to dismiss the case. 

The second telling action came when they were discussing discovery.  Sheriff Chapman’s attorney said that they had discovery for a complaint made by “another disgruntled employee Liz Mills.” The judge ruled to allow discovery to continue.  Later on in the discussion, McCaffrey’s   attorney asked the judge about discovery as it relates to the summary judgement. The judge reversed himself and stayed discovery until he makes his ruling.  If the judge intended to dismiss the entire case, these statements don’t match the impending action.
 
The judge will dismiss the summary judgement and the case will go forward against the Sherriff.  The case against the county could go either way. There were some good arguments presented by both sides. There are precedent setting issues that the court may want to hear.

I thought it was interesting that Sheriff Chapman’s attorney referred to another disgruntled employee making a complaint against Sheriff Chapman.  Does anyone know anything about that complaint?

All information can be verified by contacting the court transcription firm that is contracted by the courts as this is a public document. I would assume they charge a transcription fee in case someone wants to read the court proceedings.


McCaffrey will have his case thrown out and he will challenge Chapman in 2019.  That’s what always happens with Sheriff deputies who are disgruntled with the man in charge - they run against him.


Let’s take a poll. How many think the case will be dismissed and how many belive McCaffrey will win? Let’s especially hear from the contenders for sheriff after they read Jenkins v Medford and Bland v Roberts.


Gives chapman 10 days to find another job.  I hear Walmarts hiring.


10 days means the judge is going to throw out the case against Chapman

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