Santa Rosa city attorneys are attempting to move the revived lawsuit of a fired police captain back to federal court, where they won a partial dismissal last year.
Former Santa Rosa Police Department second-in-command Jamie Mitchel filed an amended lawsuit in Sonoma County Superior Court in September, alleging he was wrongfully terminated and that his privacy rights were violated.
City Attorney Caroline Fowler said Monday the city has filed papers to move the case to federal court, arguing that Mitchel's claims relate to federal statutes.
Generally, there are no hearings in such a move, Fowler said, unless Mitchel contends the federal court doesn't have jurisdiction.
The case may be assigned to the same judge who heard the case last year, Susan Illston. Illston dismissed the case on several grounds, ruling that further legal remedies had to be exhausted before Mitchel could bring his suit back.
He filed the amended complaint after his civil service arbitration hearing concluded this year. The three-member panel, in a split decision, upheld Mitchel's termination.
City Manager Jeff Kolin fired Mitchel, 54, in May 2008 in the wake of several complaints from police department employees related to gender discrimination and retaliation from ex-Chief Ed Flint and Mitchel.
In a 19-page ruling, the panel ruled his firing was appropriate based on his explanations of his discussions with others about the complaints, not because of his behavior toward the complainants.
Flint was forced out and Mitchel fired. The city paid the six complainants, some of whom no longer work for the city, a total of $120,000.
Fowler said the city also will ask the federal court to dismiss the case and keep under seal parts of Mitchel's lawsuit filed in September.
Mitchel's attorney, Scott Lewis, didn't return a call Monday seeking comment.
Along with his lawsuit, Mitchel filed a lengthy transcript of the 11-day arbitration hearing with the testimony of 31 witnesses, including many police department employees who described incidents of unprofessional behavior and disparaging comments from police managers.
The city also wanted the arbitration panel's written ruling sealed.
Sonoma County Judge Elaine Rushing tentatively sealed the documents, however they had been public for more than two weeks, so it was unclear what effect the sealing would have.
Rushing set a hearing for Nov. 10 on the issue, but that dispute also may be moved to federal court.
The complaints brought to a head dysfunction and discrimination within the police department that some say has been present for years. Many in the department took sides and Mitchel's firing became a center point.
Overall, the city has spent more than $830,000 to fire Mitchel, force out Flint, settle with the complainants and pay their legal fees.