Apr 11, 2024 - News

The intrigue: Narrow standard of review

Illustration of a magnifying glass burning away a redaction to reveal documents and photos.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

The state top court could expand the current standard of review in police arbitration cases, which in turn may embolden many other agencies across Pennsylvania to challenge decisions they believe are flawed.

  • The narrow certiorari review prohibits courts from hearing arguments that arbitrators misapplied a collective bargaining agreement.

What they're saying: City attorney Craig Gottlieb argues in a brief the current standard of review has forced Philadelphia to accept many "untenable and repugnant results" that undermine public confidence and force police departments to take back police officers who "forfeited any right to wear the badge."

State of play: While the city believes it has made compelling arguments for why the Supreme Court should hear its case, these types of appeals are rare.

  • Only a fraction are taken up because state law makes it difficult to challenge police disciplinary cases decided through binding arbitration.
  • Police and firefighters have extra protection in labor disputes because they don't have the right to strike.

Zoom out: The city faces another hurdle — Hayes is suing the city to halt any appeal, arguing he's being retaliated against because he's white.

  • In a complaint filed in federal court in February, Hayes says the city singled him out by challenging his reinstatement.
  • He points to other Black officers charged with similar misconduct whose reinstatements weren't appealed.
  • "In this case, it's not whataboutism. It's evidence," Steven Feinstein, Hayes' attorney, tells Axios.

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