Earlier this week McHenry County Sheriff Keith Nygren won a Federal Appellate Court decision because the lawyer handing the case for the plaintiff wrote such a bad brief.
Today Nygren lost a State Appellate Court decision because his side of the case was so bad.
The last part of the decision written by Appellate Court Justice Michael Burke with Justices Mary Schostok and Joseph Birkett concurring tells the tale:
“We find the determination that there was no just cause to terminate Seipler and that the appropriate remedy was a three-day suspension fell within the authority granted to the arbitrator under the CBA as well as the explicit stipulation by the parties concerning the scope of the arbitrator’s authority.
“For the reasons stated, we affirm the decision of the circuit court of McHenry County.”
As a result Associate Judge Thomas Meyer’s decision ordering Nygren to re-instate Zane Seipler as a Deputy Sheriff, Nygren appealed the case.
In affirming the Circuit Court decision, the Appellate Court panel noted that Deputy Jennifer Asplund had done essentially the same thing Zane Seipler did, but had only received a three-day suspension.
The higher court noted that the arbitrator had made that recommendation.
The decision points out that “judicial review of an arbitral award is extremely limited,” because the statute’s intent was “to provide finality for labor disputes submitted to arbitration…The Act contemplates judicial disturbance of an award only in instances of fraud, corruption, partiality, misconduct, mistake, or failure to submit the question to arbitration.”
““Thus, a court is duty bound to enforce a labor-arbitration award if the arbitrator acts within the scope of his or her authority and the award draws its essence from the parties’ collective-bargaining agreement,” the order notes in quoting a previous case.
Seipler’s Fraternal Order of Police attorney made that argument before Judge Meyer.
Nygren argued that “the arbitrator’s award reinstating Seipler to his position as a patrol deputy must be vacated because it violates the explicit public policy of employing law enforcement officers who must be held to high standards of honesty and credibility.”
The decision continues,
“Plaintiff argues that keeping Seipler on the force will impugn the reputation of the entire Department. Seipler and the Union respond that the arbitrator made a rational finding that Seipler is amenable to corrective discipline and that, therefore, the award reinstating Seipler does not violate public policy. “
A case supporting Nygren’s position is cited: “a court cannot enforce an arbitration award made pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement where the award violates public policy, but continues with a countervailing decision which said that “the public policy exception is an extremely narrow one and should “not otherwise sanction a broad judicial power to set aside arbitration awards.”
The legal authorities pointed out for the public policy exception to be valid there are two steps that must be climbed:
- identifying a well-defined and dominant public policy and
- concluding the arbitrator’s award, as reflected in his or her interpretation of the agreement, violates public policy.
The Justices summarized the issue like this:
As stated by the trial court, “[t]his concept is so obvious that no further discussion as to the basis of the public policy is required.” The arbitrator also found that Seipler’s conduct violated department rules and that the misconduct warranted discipline. Thus, the only question here is whether reinstating Seipler violates public policy.
Commenting on the arbitrator’s decision, the court said,
“The arbitrator found that, during the four years Seipler worked for the Department, he was recognized for his work ethic, he was commended for being among the officers who wrote the most traffic tickets, and was not regarded as a poor worker or had a history of disciplinary problems. The arbitrator determined that a three-day suspension was warranted in lieu of discharge. Implicit in these findings is that Seipler was amenable to discipline.”
The reasoning continues:
“Plaintiff’s argument lacks credence when compared to the discipline imposed in Asplund’s case.
“Plaintiff’s suspension of Asplund for three days instead of following the recommended termination exemplifies plaintiff’s belief that the integrity and best interests of the Department were not compromised by allowing Asplund to remain a member of the Department.
“Moreover, we find plaintiff’s attempts to distinguish the present case from the Asplund case unavailing. Asplund wrote false tickets in violation of the same public policy at issue here.
“In fact, it is arguable that Asplund’s situation was more egregious than Seipler’s because Asplund’s explanation of the events was not credible; whereas Seipler acknowledged his violations.
“As pointed out by the trial court, ‘[w]hile [plaintiff] argued that Deputy Asplund issued citations to people who had actually violated the law, the fact remains that the citations that were issued were inappropriate and seemingly violations of the public policy that [plaintiff] now demands be strictly construed.’
“Given plaintiff’s treatment of the Asplund matter, we cannot accept plaintiff’s argument that public policy demands that Seipler be terminated.
“Accordingly, while perhaps we may have decided the case differently, we hold that the arbitrator’s award reinstating Seipler to his former position and that a three-day suspension was appropriate discipline, after implicitly concluding that he was amenable to discipline, does not violate any well-defined public policy.”