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Education

JD, Southwestern Law School, Los Angeles

BA, University of Massachusetts at Amherst

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Geoff is a huge fan of all Boston sports teams.

Police Officer v. City  (2015) – Successfully prosecuted the dismissal of a peace officer for dishonesty. Officer had a history of absenteeism, and he requested a shift off using false pretenses. The officer attempted to blame his conduct on alcohol abuse and retained an expert to support his alleged defense, but City and its expert rebutted the defense.

Police Officer v. City (2015) – City prevailed in appeal by a police officer who appealed her removal from a canine assignment.

Police Officer v. City (2014) – Prevailed in a police officer’s appeal of his dismissal for dishonesty. The officer was hired by the City as a lateral from another agency. Six years into his employment,  the City received a “Brady letter” from the U.S. Department of Justice advising that while the officer while employed by a previous agency, had been involved in a conspiracy to plant narcotics on suspects. After an internal investigation, the City terminated the officer for dishonesty because he had not been truthful about the incident in his application materials. An arbitrator sustained the termination and the City Manager adopted the arbitrator’s findings. The City then prevailed after the officer filed a writ in Superior Court challenging the termination.

Police Officer v. City (2014) – Prevailed in a termination and in writ proceedings in a matter involving a police officer who was terminated for excessive use of force. After an arbitrator reduced the discipline for the use of force charge, the officer was found psychologically unfit for duty and terminated after he refused to transfer to a non-sworn position as a reasonable accommodation. The termination was sustained at arbitration and also at Superior Court when the officer attempted to challenge the termination.

Police Officer v. City (2013) – Prevailed in termination appeal by a police officer for neglect of duty and failure to comply with Departmental orders. The officer had a history of “kissing off” work, and he was terminated after it was discovered he conducted a negligent DUI stop that led to a traffic accident.

Police Officer v. City (2012) – In a police officer discipline appeal hearing, prevailed against a police sergeant who appealed his demotion to the rank of police officer. The officer had been a Sergeant for approximately 12 years. He had received several commendations, good performance ratings and was selected as one of three supervisors to lead his department’s SWAT team. However, the sergeant’s performance had slipped. He received two reprimands for failing to exercise good judgment in the line of duty, and then threatened and assaulted a subordinate who had given him a “hard foul” during a pick-up basketball game with SWAT team members. While he was under administrative investigation for that incident, he was discovered running one of the City’s automatic red light cameras while giving the camera “the bird.”

ALADS v. County of Los Angeles, et al. (2019) – Mr. Sheldon represented the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) in its “Brady List” litigation since 2016, and in 2019 he won a unanimous decision from the California Supreme Court in favor of the County’s position.  The LASD compiled a “Brady List,” which was a list of names LASD deputies whose personnel files contained allegations of misconduct that could be used  for impeachment in a prosecution. The union representing rank and file deputies, ALADS, filed a lawsuit seeking to prevent LASD from creating its “Brady List” at all, from transferring or imposing duty restrictions on deputies who were on the “Brady List,” and from distributing the “Brady List” to prosecutors so they could, in turn, fulfill their constitutional “Brady” obligations. The trial court mostly agreed with the County’s position, and therefore ALADS appealed to the California Court of Appeal.  The Court of Appeal agreed with ALADS and found that certain California statutes that give law enforcement officers’ personnel files extra-confidentiality, i.e., the “Pitchess” statutes, prevented public safety departments and prosecutors from disclosing Brady Lists or even making “Brady Alerts” to one another.  In August 2019, the Supreme Court found for the County in a unanimous decision, i.e., the Supreme Court held that County and all other law enforcement departments can make Brady Alerts without violating the Pitchess statutes.

Campbell v. City of Los Angeles, et al. (2018) – Successfully decertified two Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) cases brought by approximately 2,500 City of Los Angeles police officers seeking overtime pay for a 13-year period. The police officers claimed that the City’s Police Department knew or should have known that they were working uncompensated overtime.  The Department argued that it had no knowledge that its officers were not following its overtime policy. Following extensive discovery and exchange of information between the parties, the federal trial court granted the City’s motion to decertify these FLSA collective actions and dismissed the officers’ claims.  The officers appealed the decertification to the Ninth Circuit.  The Ninth Circuit decided that no reasonable trier of fact could conclude that the Department fostered or tolerated a tacit policy of non-compliance with the FLSA, given the Department’s overwhelming evidence of compliance with its valid FLSA overtime policy, and dismissed the officers’ two collective lawsuits.

Guillen v. City of Gardena (2016) –  A bus driver employed by the City alleged six causes of action, including disability harassment, failure to accommodate and whistleblower retaliation, against the City and two managers. Plaintiff/appellant’s alleged disability arose, in part, from the post traumatic stress disorder he alleged to have suffered after he was assaulted by a bus passenger. The City terminated plaintiff for misconduct toward bus passengers. The trial court granted complete summary judgment on all claims.  Plaintiff appealed, and the appellate court affirmed the judgment, finding that the City was not on notice of plaintiff’s diagnosis and therefore could not have harassed or discriminated against him on this basis, and that plaintiff did not suffer any adverse employment actions.

Berndt et al v. City of Los Angeles et al.  (2015) – LCW prevailed on behalf of the City in this wage and hour case in both the District Court and ninth Circuit Court of Appeal.  Approximately 20 Police officers employed by the City of Los Angeles’ Police Department filed a federal lawsuit alleging wage and hour violations under the FLSA and provisions of the Labor Code. After the trial court granted the City’s motion to dismiss, the only remaining claims were allegations that (1) the City’s policy of paying police officers with compensatory time off (CTO) for non-FLSA hours worked violated the FLSA, and (2) the City should have paid overtime to the plaintiffs using a 40-hour overtime threshold for a seven-day period rather than the 171-hour overtime threshold for a 28-day period that the City adopted pursuant to the FLSA’s section 207(k) (also known as the 7(k) exemption). The plaintiffs argued they did not qualify for the exemption because they were purportedly no longer performing “law enforcement activities” when they were assigned to do administrative work pending internal investigations. The City successfully moved for summary judgment on both FLSA claims, and the plaintiffs appealed. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the District Court’s decision and held that the FLSA regulations expressly permit employers to compensate employees with CTO for “non-FLSA” overtime, and the Ninth Circuit also agreed that the City properly established the 7(k) exemption.

County of Los Angeles v. LA County Employee Relations Commission, et al. (2015) – LCW prevailed at the superior court and on appeal in a case where after entering into MOUs, two public safety unions filed “class” grievances on behalf of approximately 10,000 current or former employees seeking MOU overtime pay for “donning and doffing” activities, as well as overtime for “off-the-clock” supervisory activities. After the County’s Employee Relations Commission granted the unions’ request for class arbitration, the County and its Sheriff’s Department sued the Commission and the two unions for declaratory relief, injunctive relief and a writ of mandate. The unions, in turn, filed a cross-complaint seeking to litigate their 10,000 members’ contractual overtime claims in a class action venued in Superior Court. In a published decision, the Court of Appeal found for the County/Sheriff’s Department, holding that since the parties never contracted for “class” arbitration the only way the various overtime claims could be pursued was in individual arbitrations.

Blythe v. County of Riverside  (2010) – Court of Appeal reversed the trial court on an issue involving mitigation of damages. Court of Appeal found that County did provide evidence of comparable employment and the trial court did not have sufficient evidence to support a contrary holding.

Nemeth v. County of Los Angeles (2019) – LCW, with Geoff as lead counsel, obtained summary judgment in a lawsuit alleging various violations of the Public Safety Officers’ Procedural Bill of Rights Act.

Moreno, et al. v. City of Beverly Hills (2019) – Geoff was co-lead counsel defending the City in a lawsuit brought by four employees of the City’s police department.  The four plaintiffs alleged that they were subjected to a number of different adverse employment actions that they contented were motivated by illegal discrimination and/or relation.  Some of the plaintiffs also alleged they were subjected to illegal harassment.  After a trial that lasted more than four weeks, the plaintiffs asked the jury to award them more than $20 million.  While the jury found some liability, the plaintiffs received just a fraction of the damages they claimed to have suffered.

Lee v. City of Montebello (2016) – LCW obtained summary judgment in this lawsuit, in which a former employee alleged that her termination was in retaliation for reporting errors by the City in calculating her PERS contributions and for making complaints about her manager. Plaintiff also alleged that she was terminated without constitutional due process. The trial court granted summary judgment, finding that  plaintiff’s complaints did not involve matters of public concern under the First Amendment, and that her due process claim was barred because it had been adjudicated in a writ proceeding she filed contesting her termination.

Biggers v. City of Indio  (2015) – LCW prevailed for the City in police officer’s petition for writ of administrative mandamus challenging his termination for dishonesty associated with false statements on his application materials

Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, et al. v. County of Los Angeles, et al. (2012) – LCW, with Geoff as co-lead counsel, represented the County in a FLSA collective action where the U.S. District Court granted several key motions filed by LCW on behalf of the County  The lawsuit involved the “donning and doffing” claims of approximately 3,000 deputy sheriffs in two different, yet consolidated, collective action lawsuits filed against the County and its Sheriff. The trial court also granted the County’s motion to decertify the remaining “off-the-clock” work claims. The District Court’s rulings effectively ended two large collective/class action lawsuits after several years of litigation.

Rosales v. County of Los Angeles (2011) – In this FLSA collective action, a class of 700 IHSS social workers who evaluated IHSS recipients’ needs and made recommendations regarding the services to be performed by IHSS providers sought compensation for unreported overtime and certification of the class. LCW successfully defeated plaintiffs’ attempt to certify the class and limited the case to just one social worker. The case then settled for nuisance value.

Nolan v. City of Los Angeles (2011) – 43 LAPD supervisors claimed that the LAPD violated the FLSA by failing to pay them overtime for pre-shift and post-shift work, missed meal breaks and donning and doffing of their uniforms. LCW obtained summary judgment for the LAPD on plaintiffs’ donning and doffing claim. Following a seven day jury trial on the claims of four representative plaintiffs, the jury returned a partial verdict for plaintiffs, but awarded them less than 3% of the damages they sought. The parties then resolved the remaining claims for the other plaintiffs based on the jury’s verdict.

Moon v. City of Downey  (2010) – LCW obtained summary judgment in an action brought by a fire fighter who alleged he was harassed, retaliated against and denied promotion based on his sexual orientation. Plaintiff could not state a prima facie case for any of these causes of action, and the City demonstrated legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for promoting another individual over plaintiff.

Petersen Law Firm v. City of Los Angeles  (2009 and 2013) – LCW, with lead counsel Geoff Sheldon, prevailed on an Anti-SLAPP motion in a case challenging investigation of police officers. After the matter was appealed and remanded, the trial court reconsidered the City’s motion for attorney’s fees and ruled that the City was entitled to recover the entire amount of attorney’s fees and costs it requested.

Bentley v. County of Los Angeles, et al (2009) – In a federal lawsuit a County client defeated a motion for conditional certification of a collective action filed by a potential lead plaintiff in a Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) wage and hour action.

Maciel v. City of Los Angeles  (2008) – Plaintiff sued for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act alleging he was entitled to overtime pay for time spent “donning” and doffing” his police uniform; and various “off-the-clock” tasks performed pre-shift, post-shift and during unpaid meal periods. LCW obtained a defense verdict on all claims.

Reform in Law Enforcement: an L&E Perspective
07/17/2020
The Daily Journal

This article discusses how law enforcement agencies need to approach the calls for significant police reform in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks.  Full article here.

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In Wake of Floyd Killing, Police in Orange County Talk Reform
07/14/2020
Orange County Register

Partner Geoffrey S. Sheldon was quoted in the Orange County Register article, “In Wake of Floyd Killing, Police in Orange County Talk Reform,” discussing potential reforms needed in the hiring and discipline processes of public safety agencies. Read full article here.

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Public Employee Rights Might Block Some Police Discipline Efforts
06/26/2020
The Daily Journal

Managing Partner J. Scott Tiedemann and Partner Geoffrey S. Sheldon were quoted in the Daily Journal article, “Public Employee Rights Might Block Some Police Discipline Efforts,” discussing how labor laws guaranteeing due process rights to public employees might be preventing law...

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Returning to “Normal”: Legal Issues Law Enforcement Agencies Face in Returning to Work Post-COVID-19
06/23/2020
California Police Chief Magazine

The COVID-19 pandemic struck like lightning, moving law enforcement departments to make rapid changes to employment practices, from modifying work schedules to conducting medical screening to disallowing vacations.   Swift changing circumstances left little room for deliberation or labor...

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California Supreme Court: Agencies May No Longer Charge For Costs Of Redacting Body Cam Footage or Other Electronic Public Records
05/29/2020
LCW Special Bulletin

In a unanimous decision issued May 28, 2020, the California Supreme Court ruled that the California Public Records Act (“CPRA”) does not permit public agencies to recover from the requesting party the cost of redacting information from electronic records in response to a request for electronically...

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The Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, Daily Journal, OC Register and More Turn to Partner Geoffrey Sheldon For Insight On California Supreme Court Ruling in “Brady List” Case
09/10/2019
The Associated Press

As published in The Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, Daily Journal, OC Register and more, in a unanimous decision, the California Supreme Court held that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) could share with prosecutors the names of deputies on its “Brady list” in particular cases...

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