Mock v. Div. of State Police

Decision Date31 May 2022
Docket NumberC. A. 2019-0229-MTZ
CourtCourt of Chancery of Delaware

Submitted: March 17, 2022

Stephani J. Ballard, LAW OFFICES OF STEPHANI J. BALLARD, LLC Wilmington, Delaware; Attorney for Plaintiff Shawn Mock.

Joseph C. Handlon, STATE OF DELAWARE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE Wilmington, Delaware; Attorney for Defendant Division of State Police, Department of Safety and Homeland Security of the State of Delaware.


A former police officer is challenging his termination by the state agency who employed him. By statute, Delaware affords police officers particularized due process measures when they face disciplinary action. The plaintiff argues that the agency violated those due process rights. He does not have a statutory right to judicial review of the agency's decision. And so, the plaintiff seeks a declaratory judgment that the agency violated his rights, together with a permanent injunction voiding the termination, reinstating the plaintiff to his position, awarding him back pay and benefits, and prohibiting the agency from pursuing additional adverse employment action against him.

The Court of Chancery is proudly a court of limited subject matter jurisdiction. This Court jealously defends that limitation and has a duty to examine issues of subject matter jurisdiction sua sponte. I considered the plaintiff's approach to this Court with this mandate in mind. I conclude this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to hear the plaintiff's claims. This Court does not have statutory jurisdiction, and the plaintiff does not allege an equitable claim. And a practical view of the plaintiff's claims reveals that to the extent he seeks equitable relief, he has an adequate remedy at law in the form of a writ of mandamus. The case is therefore dismissed, and the parties may transfer the matter to Superior Court under 10 Del. C. § 1902 within sixty days.[1] If the plaintiff elects to transfer, the remaining issues presented by the pending motion to amend and motion to compel, which have been fully briefed, should be transferred as well, so a court of competent jurisdiction can pass on their merits.


Plaintiff Shawn Mock served in the Delaware State Police from March 1, 2013 until his termination on December 13, 2018.[3] Defendant Division of State Police (the "Division") is a division of Delaware's Department of Safety and Homeland Security.[4] The Division is "responsible for the performance of all the powers, duties and functions heretofore vested in: (1) The State Highway Department, the State Highway Commission, the State Police and the Superintendent of the State Police" and "(2) . . . the Superintendent of the State Police and the State Bureau of Identification . . . ."[5]

On October 17, 2017, Mock hit another vehicle with his police car.[6] His car's dash camera "captured the entire accident and its aftermath," including Mock parking the damaged car at his home for the night.[7] Mock failed to report the collision at the time it occurred, as is required by his employer's policy.[8] The following morning, a trash collector knocked on Mock's door and told him that it appeared the police car had been damaged, but that the trash collector was not the cause.[9] Only at this point did Mock notify his supervisor about the accident; but he told his supervisor "that it appeared the accident had occurred as a hit and run outside of his residence."[10] Mock's supervisor drafted a report based on Mock's account of the accident.[11] After inspecting the car and the dash camera footage, Mock's superiors brought their suspicions to Mock.[12] One of his superiors drafted a second report based on the events as they actually occurred.[13]

On November 15, 2017, the Division's Internal Affairs department notified Mock he was under investigation.[14] Such investigations are governed by a set of statutes called the Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights ("LEOBOR").[15]

LEOBOR was passed in 1985 to provide uniform procedural rights to officers under investigation by their own departments. The Delaware General Assembly was concerned about "inconsistencies between departmental procedures within the State." LEOBOR applies to "all law-enforcement disciplinary proceedings throughout the State, conducted by the law-enforcement agencies specified in § 9200(b) of this title." Most relevant here is Section 9200(c), which sets forth the rights of officers under investigation for disciplinary purposes.[16]

On February 28, 2018, Internal Affairs charged Mock with ten counts.[17]Beginning on April 30 and spanning three days, a Divisional Trial Board (the "Trial Board") held a hearing and deliberations on Mock's charges.[18] The Trial Board found seven of the ten charges "substantiated" and recommended disciplinary actions including termination.[19] The Trial Board sent its written recommendations to the Division, but not to Mock.[20]

After the Trial Board makes its recommendations, the Superintendent of the Division of the State Police (the "Superintendent") must "review that decision, taking into consideration other specified factors, and then issue his own decision . . . as to what penalties he recommends be imposed in a given case."[21] On July 18, the Superintendent sent Mock his decision agreeing with the Trial Board's recommendations.[22] Upon receipt of the Superintendent's decision, Mock's counsel asked the Division for the Trial Board recommendations and the Division sent them.[23] On July 26, Mock filed a timely written appeal to the Secretary of the Department of Safety and Homeland Security (the "Secretary").[24] "The Secretary is vested with the authority to hear appeals from disciplinary decisions of the Division and such appeals are reviewed upon the Trial Board's and Superintendent's written decisions; the transcript and record of the Divisional Trial Board hearing, and the officer's prior disciplinary file (collectively the 'record')."[25] The Secretary held oral argument on November 7.[26] The Deputy Attorney General defending the Superintendent's decision on appeal before the Secretary had represented and advised the Trial Board, and had drafted the Trial Board's recommendation to the Superintendent.[27] On December 13, the Secretary issued his written decision upholding the Superintendent's decision to terminate Mock's employment.[28]

On March 25, 2019, Mock sued the Division in this Court.[29] Mock seeks declaratory relief, damages, reinstatement, and an injunction against another iteration of the LEOBOR process, alleging the Division violated his rights under "LEOBOR, Delaware common law, and constitutional due process."[30] He seeks a second appellate review of his termination that would ultimately reverse the termination, give him his job back, and award him money damages. Mock alleges his termination should be reversed for violations "including but not limited to" the following seven:

1. The Division's "investigation was initiated and continued in violation of [Mock]'s rights under LEOBOR [11 Del. C. § 9200(c)] and the fruits of that improper investigation created and[] tainted the charges lodged against [Mock], and tainted ensuing proceedings;"[31]
2. The Division "affirmatively created official written reports, after [Mock] was already under formal investigation, and used those documents to create and lodge 'false official report' charges against" [Mock] in violation of his rights under 11 Del. C. § 9200(c);[32]
3. Mock's "Trial Board hearing evidence was obtained, received or admitted into evidence which violated [Mock]'s rights established by [the] Constitution and by LEOBOR [11 Del. C. § 9206];"[33]
4. The Trial Board "entered judgment based on evidence obtained in violation of [Mock's] rights under LEOBOR";[34] 5. "[T]he Trial Board issued its written decision ex parte to only [] Internal Affairs and not to [Mock], prior to the issuance of the Superintendent's decision and recommendation of termination, in violation of LEOBOR [11 Del. C. § 9206] and [the Division's] internal procedures;"[35]
6. "[T]he Trial Board's decision failed to make a legally sufficient, evidentiary-based, findings of facts and conclusions of law upon the substantiated charges, and neglected to address the unsubstantiated charges at all;"[36] and
7. The Division "allowed [Mock]'s administrative appeal to proceed with the improper dual representation of allowing the Deputy Attorney General who advised the Trial Board and drafted their decision, to appear as counsel in opposition to [Mock]'s appeal of that same decision."[37]

On May 6, the Division filed a notice of removal to the United States District Court for the District of Delaware.[38] Mock moved to remand, and the Division agreed to remand so long as fees were not sought.[39] On June 20, Mock filed an amended complaint in this Court (the "Amended Complaint"), which removed most, if not all, references to federal due process rights.[40] The Division filed its answer on June 28 and moved for leave to file an amended answer on February 27, 2020.[41] On January 29, 2021, Mock filed a motion to compel.[42] On June 23, the Court asked for supplemental briefing regarding whether this Court has subject matter jurisdiction.[43]The parties submitted the requested briefing, and the Court took the matter under advisement on March 17, 2022.[44]


For decades, Delaware courts have been attempting to parse which courts can offer what relief for a violation of LEOBOR.[45] While LEOBOR enumerates several procedural requirements for disciplining a police officer, it does not...

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