The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office conducted an internal investigation on Deputy Lackey. The investigation made findings that Lackey had committed job related acts of dishonesty and other violations.
The Sheriff sent Lackey a letter sustaining the findings and indicating that Lackey was to be separated from employment for the other violations. The letter also stated that the investigative report was being forwarded to the Lewis County Prosecutor for an analysis under Brady and that a determination of lack of veracity would constitute an additional and independent basis for termination.
The Prosecutor responded by letter, writing “the disciplinary file you provided contains findings that Deputy Lackey committed job-related acts of dishonesty or untruthfulness ... I am obligated to provide this information to defendants and defense attorneys in every case in which Deputy Lackey is likely to testify as a witness for the State.”
Lackey was separated from employment but appealed through Civil Service. A settlement was reached between Lackey and the Sheriff’s Office. The parties to the agreement were the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office, the Deputies Guild, and Lackey. The Prosecutor was not a party to the agreement.
The Sheriff’s Office “agreed to remove any reference to findings of dishonesty in the plaintiff's termination letter; however, the findings were to remain in the plaintiff's permanent investigation file.” The agreement also stated that the letter from the Prosecutor would be sealed by the Sheriff.
The settlement agreement further stated that the Brady memo from Mr. Golden to Mr. Walton would remain sealed by the Sheriff unless directed to be disclosed by a court order, public records request, or other applicable and controlling laws.
- NOTE: Police union contracts and settlement agreements cannot prevent the disclosure of Brady material as a defendant’s constitutional right is paramount. An officer’s privacy interest cannot prevent disclosure of disciplinary records as such records are considered to be of legitimate concern to the public. See, e.g. Dawson v. Daly, 120 Wn.2d 782, 795-96, 845 P.2d 995 (1993); Cowles Pub'g Co. v. State Patrol, 44 Wn. App. 882, 724 P.2d 379 (1986), rev'd on other grounds, 109 Wn.2d 712, 748 P.2d 597 (1988).
Lackey then obtained provisional employment in Mason County, pending a background investigation. The Lewis County Prosecutor became aware of this and sent Lackey a letter stating he would be sending his analysis letter to the Mason County Prosecutor, but gave Lackey 10 days to object. The letter was subsequently sent.
Lackey was separated from his new job. He then filed claims against Lewis County and the Lewis County Prosecutor for sharing Brady information, Due Process violation and deprivation of property interest, defamation, invasion of privacy, and an injunction.
All federal claims were dismissed by the federal court.
“The court can find no law prohibiting a prosecutor from sharing potentially exculpatory or impeaching evidence with prosecutors of another jurisdiction. Such a law would be antithetical to a prosecutor's duty of disclosure mandated by Brady v. Maryland. A reasonable prosecutor in Mr. Golden's position could feel obliged to offer such information to a fellow prosecutor to remain in compliance with Brady and its progeny; and a reasonable prosecutor in Mr. Golden's position would not have known that his conduct in releasing the Brady letter would violate any clearly established constitutional right.”
The court also wrote “The plaintiff has failed to identify any law that recognizes a police officer's right to a name-clearing hearing after a Brady determination has been made, or any law prohibiting a prosecutor from transmitting a Brady determination to another jurisdiction.”