COEUR d'ALENE - A federal judge denied the city of Coeur d'Alene's request for a new trial for a wrongful termination suit involving a former police officer.
United States Magistrate Judge Larry M. Boyle ruled Wednesday the court did not err when it decided former Police Lt. Daniel Dixon had been wrongfully terminated by the city in 2009. The order shot down several of the city's claims - including jury misconduct and the failure of the court to allow the use of polygraph results as evidence - but did reduce Dixon's awarded amount by nearly $500,000 to $3.2 million.
"On every single issue the judge supported the jury's argument, and found that the city's stance was frivolous," said Larry Beck, Dixon's attorney, who called Boyle's order "a fantastic decision. Judge Boyle stated in his learned decision that there is substantial evidence in the record to support the jury's finding that Dixon's termination was 'arbitrary.'"
A federal jury awarded Dixon and his wife $3.7 million back in October.
City Attorney Mike Gridley said the city was pleased that the awarded amount was reduced, but the city would appeal the decision to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
"We're pleased that the judgment was reduced," Gridley said. But "we think there were errors made."
Boyle's order was in response to a motion for a new trial the city filed after the jury verdict.
It upheld that jury's verdict that said negligent training inside the department and indifference to Dixon's Constitutional rights led to the firing. It also said the court was correct when it didn't allow the city to introduce Dixon's failed polygraph results as evidence because "the prejudicial effect of the polygraph evidence substantially outweighs their probative value."
Gridley said the polygraph results were from an internal investigation on Dixon, and should be allowed because the city considered their results before terminating Dixon's employment, which proves it wasn't an "arbitrary" decision.
Dixon, a 17-year veteran of the force before his 2009 departure, had been accused inside the department of engaging in conduct unbecoming an officer, such as cheating on his time card in order to receive pay for hours he didn't work and falsifying another officer's time card as a means to harass.
Dixon was demoted to patrol, per city personnel rules. When he did not show up for work following the demotion, he was fired.
Beck argued the investigation had never been warranted.
Gridley said the city would appeal to the United States Supreme Court if the appeal is denied.
Beck called an appeal a waste of money, especially in light of the judge's ruling that confirmed the jury's decision.