It is easy to forget that the FOP Legal Defense Plan provides coverage for officers who find themselves defendants in a civil action related to their official actions as a law enforcement officer. The FOP’s coverage for civil matters is secondary coverage. That means that if the City is going to represent the officer that the Legal Plan will consider that primary coverage.
In the case the employer is going to represent the officer, the FOP will provide for an attorney of your choosing to monitor the case. The monitoring attorney is tasked with keeping up with the case and, generally, making sure that the officer’s representation is adequate. In the event the representation is inadequate, the officer can request that the monitoring attorney be allowed to assume representation of the officer.
The other possibility is that the employing agency could decide not to represent the officer. This scenario presented itself recently. In the case of Bennett v. Serpas, et al, a federal civil rights action, the City notified the officers involved that the City Attorney’s office would not be representing them.
It is interesting to note that the last paragraph of the letter dated October 2, 2015 sent to the officer advises that he has 20 days from service of the complaint to file an answer or the Judge could enter a default judgment. In this case, the complaint was served on August 21, 2015 with an answer due on September 11, 2015 – thank a lot.
In this event, the attorney — in this case I am the attorney — simply needs to advise the FOP Legal Plan that it will be necessary to assume primary representation of the officer. If Officer Guidry had not requested a monitoring attorney, he still would have been able to get one after the City announced they wouldn’t be handling the representation. However, having been involved on the periphery of the case, it is easier for me to change modes with little to no impact on the officer.
I have no idea why the City is choosing not to represent Officer Guidry in this matter. Frankly, I think it sends a terrible message to police officers in this city to abandon them under these circumstances, but at least FOP members can rest assured that the FOP has their back.
I want to thank Patrick Guidry for allowing me to use his case as an example.