Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

State v. Rhode Island Troopers Association

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

June 27, 2018

State of Rhode Island, by and through Attorney General Peter Kilmartin
v.
Rhode Island Troopers Association.

          Providence County Superior Court (PC 17-918) Netti C. Vogel Associate Justice.

          For Plaintiff: Department of Attorney General: Rebecca T. Partington Michael W. Field Chrisanne Wyrzykowski

          For Defendant: Michael B. Forte, Jr., Esq.

          Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ.

          OPINION

          MAUREEN MCKENNA GOLDBERG JUSTICE.

         This case of first impression is before the Supreme Court on appeal by the defendant, the Rhode Island Troopers Association (RITA), from a judgment granting declaratory and equitable relief in favor of the plaintiff, the State of Rhode Island (the state). The Superior Court declared that the Governmental Tort Liability Act, G.L. 1956 chapter 31 of title 9, vests the Attorney General with the nondelegable, nontransferable legal duty to determine whether the state should provide a defense and indemnification in a civil action brought against a state employee. The Superior Court also permanently enjoined arbitration of issues related to the Attorney General's decision to decline to provide a defense and indemnification for Rhode Island State Trooper James Donnelly-Taylor (Trooper Taylor) in a pending federal civil rights action brought against him in his individual capacity. For the reasons set forth herein, we affirm the first six declarations and vacate the remaining two declarations in the judgment of the Superior Court.

         Facts and Travel

         This case stems from an incident that occurred on February 26, 2014, when two members of the Rhode Island State Police, Trooper Taylor and Trooper Gregory Palmer (Trooper Palmer), initiated a traffic stop of Lionel Monsanto (Monsanto) after observing him speeding in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. When the officers learned that Monsanto's driver's license had expired, he was arrested and transported to the State Police Lincoln Barracks for processing.[1]After he was processed and booked, Monsanto was escorted to a cellblock. It was then that Trooper Taylor is alleged to have entered the cellblock and physically assaulted Monsanto multiple times. This incident was captured on a video recording that graphically depicts the foregoing episode.[2] The events of that evening were presented to a grand jury. Trooper Taylor was indicted on a charge of assault, to which he subsequently entered a plea of nolo contendere. During his plea colloquy, Trooper Taylor knowingly waived his constitutional rights and admitted to the underlying facts in the indictment, including that he assaulted Monsanto. A judge of the Sixth Division District Court accepted the plea and ordered the case to be filed in accordance with G.L. 1956 § 12-10-12. Trooper Taylor also was ordered to perform twenty-five hours of community service work. The criminal disposition subsequently was expunged in accordance with § 12-10-12(c). No criminal record resulted from this disposition.

         On March 24, 2016, Monsanto filed suit against the following defendants in the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island: the State of Rhode Island; Trooper Taylor, individually and in his official capacity; Trooper Palmer, individually and in his official capacity; the Rhode Island State Police; and Colonel Steven G. O'Donnell, individually and in his official capacity. Mr. Monsanto alleged federal civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; conspiracy to violate plaintiff's civil rights; assault and battery; malicious prosecution; false imprisonment and false arrest; intentional infliction of emotional distress; and violations of G.L. 1956 § 9-1-35 and G.L. 1956 § 31-21.2-3, [3] causes of action based on alleged racial harassment by racial profiling. The complaint also seeks punitive damages.

         On April 8, 2016, the Attorney General received a written request for representation from Trooper Taylor. This request stated, in pertinent part:

"I respectfully request legal representation and indemnification with regard to the * * * civil action filed [by Monsanto]. If the Attorney General is unable to represent me, I request that private counsel be engaged by the State to represent me in this matter. This request is in accordance with the RIGL, to include but not limited to, 42-28-20, and the Rhode Island State Police Troopers Association Collective Bargaining Agreement, section 29.17."

         On May 15, 2016, the Department of the Attorney General responded:

"Pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws § 9-31-9 and your plea of no contest to assault, a determination has been made by the Attorney General that due to allegations raised in the Complaint-most notably, but not limited to, the intentional torts of assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress-that the State is not legally obligated to provide you with legal representation for any cause of action filed against you in your individual capacity. Hence, the Attorney General will not represent you for any allegations raised in counts two through eight of the Complaint."

         However, the Attorney General is representing Trooper Taylor in his official capacity. An affidavit also was submitted to the Superior Court by the Department of the Attorney General that stated, in relevant part:

"Prior to making the determination in 2016 that the State of Rhode Island would not defend or indemnify James Donnelly Taylor in the federal action Monsanto v. State, et al., No. 16-0147, the Department of Attorney General had available to it: information from the criminal proceedings in State v. Lionel Monsanto, including reports from the Rhode Island State Police; information from the criminal proceedings in State v. James Donnelly Taylor, including reports, a video of the incident at the Lincoln Barracks in February of 2014, and the fact that Donnelly Taylor was indicted by a grand jury and later pled nolo contendere in the Sixth District Court to a charge of misdemeanor assault on Monsanto. There was also privileged communication and exchange of information between the Department of Attorney General and the Department of Public Safety."

         The Attorney General's refusal to provide a defense to Trooper Taylor in his individual capacity was based on the Attorney General's determination that Trooper Taylor's conduct fell "outside the scope of his employment" and amounted to willful misconduct in accordance with §§ 9-31-8 and 9-31-9, provisions of the Governmental Tort Liability Act.[4] The RITA filed a grievance on Trooper Taylor's behalf with the State Police alleging a violation of the applicable collective bargaining agreement (CBA), specifically, Article 29.17.[5] In that grievance, RITA asserted that the state must

"honor its contractual obligations contained in Article 29.17 and shall provide Trooper Donnelly Taylor with full legal defense of all claims asserted in Monsanto v. State of Rhode Island et al., and shall also provide Trooper Donnelly Taylor with full indemnification for all liabilities, expenses and damages of any nature resulting from that legal action."

         Thus, through the grievance and a subsequent demand for arbitration, RITA sought to compel the state to comply with the terms of the CBA by funding a legal defense for Trooper Taylor in the federal action and indemnify him against any damages that might be awarded to Monsanto and against Trooper Taylor, including punitive damages.

         On June 3, 2016, the State Police denied RITA's grievance based on the Attorney General's refusal to represent Trooper Taylor in his individual capacity. On June 30, 2016, RITA filed a "Demand for Arbitration" and sought the following remedy:

"A determination that the State honor its obligations contained in Article 29.17; that the State provide Trooper Donnelly-Taylor with full legal defense of all claims asserted against him in Monsanto v. State of Rhode Island et al. and/or full indemnification for all liabilities, expenses and damages of any nature resulting from that legal action; that the State shall be directed to reimburse to Trooper Donnelly-Taylor all legal fees and expenses incurred by him with respect to the representation in that legal action; and that the State reimburse the Rhode Island State Troopers Association for any damages it suffered as a result of the State's flagrant violation of Article 29.17."

         Based upon an agreed statement of facts filed by the parties in Superior Court, it is undisputed that the arbitrator, at the request of RITA, issued a subpoena seeking thirty-one categories of documents. The state did not make the requested production, but instead sought to have the subpoena quashed. Monsanto thereafter filed a third amended complaint in the federal court action; and Trooper Taylor, in his individual capacity, responded by filing a cross-claim and a third-party complaint against the Governor of Rhode Island, the General Treasurer of Rhode Island, and the Director of the Department of Administration, all in their official capacities; the Attorney General, in his individual and official capacities; and then-colonel of the State Police Steven G. O'Donnell, in his individual and official capacities.[6] Although Trooper Taylor's third-party complaint and cross-claim raised numerous allegations, the case on appeal before this Court centers on the claims arising from the Attorney General's refusal to defend and indemnify Trooper Taylor in his individual capacity in that federal action.[7]

         On February 27, 2017, the state filed a "Verified Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief" in the Superior Court that requested, inter alia, preliminary and permanent injunctive relief against the arbitration of RITA's grievance; a declaration that the grievance is not arbitrable; and a declaration that the Governmental Tort Liability Act "tasks the Attorney General with the non-delegable, non-transferable, sole legal duty to determine when and whether, in an action filed against a state employee, to provide a defense and/or indemnification[.]" The state also sought a declaration that Article 29.17 of the CBA is valid only when read in conjunction with the Governmental Tort Liability Act. On March 28, 2017, a justice of the Superior Court granted temporary injunctive relief and stayed the arbitration.

         On June 20, 2017, another hearing was held before a second trial justice of the Superior Court regarding the request for declaratory relief, based upon an agreed statement of facts. On July 6, 2017, the trial justice issued a judgment with eight declarations that generally mirror the state's request for relief. The judgment declares:

"A. Any further activity and arbitration proceedings related in any way to Defendant RITA's Demand for Arbitration * * * is permanently stayed and the Defendant [RITA] is temporarily, preliminarily and permanently enjoined from participating in any way in any further related proceedings;
"B. The issues submitted by Defendant RITA are not substantively arbitrable under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the parties or under the Rhode Island constitution or General Laws;
"C. The Governmental Tort Liability Act tasks the Attorney General with the non-delegable, non-transferable, sole legal duty to determine when and whether, in an action filed against a state employee, to provide a defense and/or indemnification, however this declaration is made without prejudice to any future litigant who wishes to challenge any portion of the statute as unclear or ambiguous or any party who seeks a construction of the language by the courts; in particular, regarding the definition of term 'within the scope of employment' as set forth in the Act[;]
"D. The matters submitted by Defendant RITA in its Demand for Arbitration are not substantively arbitrable as they are purely matters of state law subject to the right of any future litigant to seek a construction of the statute by the courts without prejudice as declared in paragraph C;
"E. Article 29.17 is valid only when read in conjunction with language in the Governmental Tort Liability Act vesting sole discretion in the Attorney General as to ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.