Pearce v. Univ. of Louisville, 2011-SC-000756-DG

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (Kentucky)
Writing for the CourtOPINION OF THE COURT BY JUSTICE VENTERS
Citation448 S.W.3d 746
PartiesJeffery T. Pearce, Appellant v. University of Louisville, by and through its Board of Trustees, Appellee and Stephen Derrick Hill, Appellant v. City of Mt. Washington, Appellee
Decision Date18 December 2014
Docket Number2011-SC-000756-DG,2012-SC-000104-DG

448 S.W.3d 746

Jeffery T. Pearce, Appellant
v.
University of Louisville, by and through its Board of Trustees, Appellee
and
Stephen Derrick Hill, Appellant
v.
City of Mt. Washington, Appellee

2011-SC-000756-DG
2012-SC-000104-DG

Supreme Court of Kentucky.

RENDERED: DECEMBER 18, 2014


Counsel for Jeffery Pearce: David Lindsay Leightty, Louisville, Benjamin S. Basil, Priddy, Cutler, Miller & Meade, PLLC.

Counsel for University of Louisville, by and through Its Board of Trustees: Craig Christman Dilger, Jeffrey August Calabrese, Stoll, Keenon, Ogden, PLLC, Louisville.

Counsel for Stephen Derrick Hill: David Duane Fuller, David D. Fuller, PLLC

Counsel for City of Mt. Washington: Patsey Ely Jacobs, Charles David Cole, Derrick Thomas Wright, Sturgill, Turner, Barker & Moloney, PLLC, Lexington.

Counsel for Amicus Curiae—Kentucky State Lodge, Fraternal Order of Police, Inc., Fraternal Order of Police, River City Lodge 614: Matthew P. Lynch, Stewart, Roelandt, Craigmyle & Lynch, PLLC, Crestwood.

Counsel for Amicus Curiae—Eastern Kentucky University, Morehead State University, Northern Kentucky University, University of Kentucky, and Western Kentucky University: Scott Donald Laufenberg, Kerrick, Stivers, Coyle, PSC, Bowling Green.

Counsel for Amicus Curiae—Kentucky League of Cities': Stacey Blankenship, Denton & Keuler, LLP, Paducah.

Counsel For Amicus Curiae—The Kentucky State Lodge, Fraternal Order of Police: Stephen D. Wolnitzek, Covington,Craig M. Schneider, Ft. Mitchell, Wolnitzek, Rowekamp & Demarcus, P.S.C.

Opinion

OPINION OF THE COURT BY JUSTICE VENTERS

In this decision we review, two separate opinions of the Court of Appeals, each of which concerns the applicable scope of KRS 15.520. KRS 15.520, often referred to as the “police officer's Bill of Rights,” details specific procedural rights for police officers who are accused of misconduct and are facing the disciplinary processes administratively conducted by the police agency that employs them.

We granted discretionary review of these cases because the issue they present is of significant concern to law enforcement personnel throughout the state and to the municipalities and governmental units that employ them, and is a matter we have not previously addressed. In addition to the arguments presented to this Court by the respective parties, we have

448 S.W.3d 748

received and we have considered arguments presented, as amicus curiae, by the Kentucky League of Cities and a consortium of Kentucky's public universities supporting of the Court of Appeals' decisions, and we have considered arguments presented by Lodges of the Fraternal Order of Police as amicus curiae in opposition to the Court of Appeals' decisions.

Upon review, we conclude that as it is currently written, KRS 15.520 applies to disciplinary actions that originate from within a police department as well as to disciplinary actions initiated upon complaints from persons outside the police department. Therefore, we reverse in both cases and remand each case to the respective trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

In the case of Jeffery T. Pearce v. University of Louisville, 2011–SC–000756–DG, Appellant Pearce's employment as a University of Louisville campus police officer was terminated by the University's chief of police after he determined that Pearce had violated University and departmental policies on two separate occasions.1 In Step hen Derrick Hill v. City of Mt. Washington, 2012–SC–000104–DG, Appellant Hill, a Mt. Washington police officer, was temporarily suspended without pay and reduced in rank upon the recommendation of the Mt. Washington police chief, Thomas Rosselli, who determined that Hill had been insubordinate by making statements critical of Rosselli's administration to other officers.

In both cases, an administrative disciplinary action was initiated against the officer as a result of allegations that arose from within the police department itself. In neither case was a formal complaint filed against the officer by a person from outside the department. Both officers requested an administrative review procedure consistent with KRS 15.520 and in both cases that request was denied. In Pearce's case, an administrative hearing was scheduled but Pearce's request to have an attorney present as provided under KRS 15.520(1)(h)(5) was denied. Hill's request for an administrative hearing pursuant to KRS 15.520 was denied altogether.

Each Appellant sought review of his department's disciplinary decision in the appropriate circuit court, along with a claim for damages. The Bullitt Circuit Court rejected Hill's claim upon its conclusion that KRS 15.520 does not apply “where no citizen complaint is involved.” In Pearce's case, the Jefferson Circuit Court seemed to conclude that KRS 15.520 was pre-empted by KRS 164.830, which mandates a different disciplinary process for employees of the University of Louisville.

Each officer appealed and argued to the Court of Appeals that he was improperly denied the protections provided by the police officer's Bill of Rights. In the Pearce case, the Court of Appeals ruled that the procedural protections provided to the police officer by KRS 15.520 apply only when the disciplinary action was initiated by a “citizen's complaint,” and for that reason they were unavailable to Pearce. By the term “citizen's complaint,” the Court of Appeals meant a formal allegation of police

448 S.W.3d 749

misconduct by a person from outside the police department, as opposed to an allegation of misconduct asserted from within the department, for example, by a supervisory authority, a fellow officer, or others employed within the department.2 The Hill case was decided later by a different panel of the Court of Appeals that, for the most part, simply cited the Pearce opinion as authority for the conclusion that Hill was not entitled to the procedural processes of KRS 15.520.

As noted above, we reverse the decisions rendered herein by the Court of Appeals, and remand each case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. Because this case involves the construction and interpretation of statutes, we begin with a brief overview of guiding principles.

II. GENERAL PRINCIPLES OF STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION

Statutory construction is an issue of law that we review de novo. Therefore, “[t]he trial court's and Court of Appeals's construction of statutes is also entitled to no deference on appeal....” Cumberland Valley Contractors, Inc. v. Bell County Coal Corp., 238 S.W.3d 644, 647 (Ky.2007) (citing Bob Hook Chevrolet Isuzu, Inc. v. Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, 983 S.W.2d 488, 490 (Ky.1998) ).

In construing a statute, it is fundamental that our foremost objective is to determine the legislature's intent in enacting the legislation. “To determine legislative intent, we look first to the language of the statute, giving the words their plain and ordinary meaning.” Richardson v. Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government, 260 S.W.3d 777, 779 (Ky.2008). Further, we construe a “statute only as written, and the intent of the Legislature must be deduced from the language it used, when it is plain and unambiguous....” Western Kentucky Coal Co. v. Na l l & Bailey, 228 Ky. 76, 14 S.W.2d 400, 401–02 (1929). Therefore, when a statute is unambiguous, we need not consider extrinsic evidence of legislative intent and public policy. County Bd. of Educ. Jefferson County v. Southern Pac. Co., 225 Ky. 621, 9 S.W.2d 984, 986 (1928). However, if the statutory language is ambiguous, we will look to other sources to ascertain the legislature's meaning, such as legislative history and public policy considerations. MPM Financial Group Inc. v. Morton, 289 S.W.3d 193, 198 (Ky.2009). Further, we “read the statute as a whole, and with other parts of the law of the Commonwealth, to ensure that our interpretation is logical in context.”Lichtenstein v. Barbanel, 322 S.W.3d 27, 35 (Ky.2010). With these principles in mind, we now consider the scope and meaning of KRS 15.520.

III. ANALYSIS

As reflected in the above principles, we begin our review of the issue by examining the statutory language, and if the meaning of the statute may be ascertained by the plain language of its text, we must accept that explicit expression of legislative intent. KRS 15.520 is somewhat unusual because, unlike many statutes, its opening section contains an explicit expression of the General Assembly's intention in adopting KRS 15.520. Ironically, it is that very expression of legislative intent that holds the ambiguity that led the Court of Appeals down the wrong path.

A. Statutory Text of KRS 15.520(1)

Subsection (1) of KRS 15.520 serves as the preamble for the remainder of the

448 S.W.3d 750

statute, and provides, perhaps, the most informative clues for ascertaining the scope of the due process protections the legislature intended to provide police officers facing administrative discipline. It contains the following expression of legislative intent and purpose:

...

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46 practice notes
  • Beth Lewis Maze & Unknown Similarly Situated Purchasers Contracts v. Bd. of Dirs. for the Commonwealth Postsecondary Educ. Prepaid Tuition Trust Fund, 2017-SC-000233-DG
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (Kentucky)
    • November 1, 2018
    ...Lichtenstein v. Barbanel, 322 S.W.3d 27, 35 (Ky. 2010) ; Pearce v. University of Louisville, by and through its Board of Trustees, 448 S.W.3d 746, 749 (Ky. 2014).III. THE KAPT CONTRACTS EXECUTED BY THE PARTIES DO NOT CONFER THE UNLIMITED AUTHORITY TO THE LEGISLATURE TO RETROACTIVELY AMEND T......
  • River City Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 614, Inc. v. Louisville/Jefferson Cnty. Metro Gov't, NO. 2020-CA-0266-MR
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Kentucky
    • April 9, 2021
    ...or phrases in a statute and not ignore some words or phrases. Pearce v. University of Louisville, by and through its Board of Trustees, 448 S.W.3d 746, 751 (Ky. 2014); Krieger v. Garvin, 584 S.W.3d 727, 729 (Ky. 2019). So, when construing KRS 67C.402(1)'s language "to bargain collectively t......
  • In re Joseph, CASE NO. 09–30812
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. Tenth Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court — Eastern District of Kentucky
    • February 7, 2018
    ...for court interpretation. Laferty v. Wickes Lumber Co. , 708 S.W.2d 107, 109 (Ky. App. 1986) ; see also Pearce v. Univ. of Louisville , 448 S.W.3d 746 (Ky. 2014) ("It is fundamental that the courts ‘are not authorized to read into [a] statute something that is not there.’ ").The Kentucky le......
  • Schell v. Young, 2020-CA-0282-MR
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Kentucky
    • June 4, 2021
    ...conducted by the police agency that employs them." Pearce v. University of Louisville, by and through its Board of Trustees , 448 S.W.3d 746, 747 (Ky. 2014).6 Although the version of KRS 15.520 then in effect was construed to have an expansive reach in Pearce , the General Assembly subseque......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
44 cases
  • Beth Lewis Maze & Unknown Similarly Situated Purchasers Contracts v. Bd. of Dirs. for the Commonwealth Postsecondary Educ. Prepaid Tuition Trust Fund, 2017-SC-000233-DG
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (Kentucky)
    • November 1, 2018
    ...Lichtenstein v. Barbanel, 322 S.W.3d 27, 35 (Ky. 2010) ; Pearce v. University of Louisville, by and through its Board of Trustees, 448 S.W.3d 746, 749 (Ky. 2014).III. THE KAPT CONTRACTS EXECUTED BY THE PARTIES DO NOT CONFER THE UNLIMITED AUTHORITY TO THE LEGISLATURE TO RETROACTIVELY AMEND T......
  • River City Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 614, Inc. v. Louisville/Jefferson Cnty. Metro Gov't, NO. 2020-CA-0266-MR
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Kentucky
    • April 9, 2021
    ...or phrases in a statute and not ignore some words or phrases. Pearce v. University of Louisville, by and through its Board of Trustees, 448 S.W.3d 746, 751 (Ky. 2014); Krieger v. Garvin, 584 S.W.3d 727, 729 (Ky. 2019). So, when construing KRS 67C.402(1)'s language "to bargain collectively t......
  • In re Joseph, CASE NO. 09–30812
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. Tenth Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court — Eastern District of Kentucky
    • February 7, 2018
    ...for court interpretation. Laferty v. Wickes Lumber Co. , 708 S.W.2d 107, 109 (Ky. App. 1986) ; see also Pearce v. Univ. of Louisville , 448 S.W.3d 746 (Ky. 2014) ("It is fundamental that the courts ‘are not authorized to read into [a] statute something that is not there.’ ").The Kentucky le......
  • Schell v. Young, 2020-CA-0282-MR
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Kentucky
    • June 4, 2021
    ...conducted by the police agency that employs them." Pearce v. University of Louisville, by and through its Board of Trustees , 448 S.W.3d 746, 747 (Ky. 2014).6 Although the version of KRS 15.520 then in effect was construed to have an expansive reach in Pearce , the General Assembly subseque......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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