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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Do v. Regents: University of California Has "Quasi-Judicial Power" Over Its Own Employment Decisions, And Substantial Evidence Test Applies On Review

In Do v. The Regents of the University of California (5/13/13, pub. 6/11/13) --- Cal.App.4th ---, the Court of Appeal affirmed a trial court order denying an employee's petition for administrative mandamus challenging his termination from the University of California.

James Do worked for the University of California as an IT professional. A conflict developed between Do and his supervisor, Richard Fletcher. Do at one point told Fletcher to "get out of my face" because he "didn't want to deck him" and "it was better than getting violent." The University terminated Do for threatening Fletcher. Do received a Skelly hearing, but the University did not change the termination decision.

After appealing his dismissal through three levels of administrative review, Do filed a petition in Superior Court for a writ of administrative mandamus, seeking reinstatement and lost compensation. The trial court denied the petition, holding the substantial evidence supported the termination decision.

The Court of Appeal affirmed, holding:
[T]he California Constitution has granted the University quasi-judicial powers regarding matters falling within its broad powers to organize and govern the university, and this includes quasi-judicial adjudication of employment rights. Such University administrative decisions are subject to review under the substantial evidence rule. 
Slip op. at 14-15.  

"In short, the University functions in some ways like an independent sovereign, retaining a degree of control over the terms and scope of its own liability." Slip op. at 16, citing Miklosy v. Regents (2008) 44 Cal.4th 876, 890. 

The trial court properly applied a substantial evidence standard to the University's termination decision. Slip op. at 21-22. Substantial evidence supported the University's decision, and the trial court did not err in denying Do's petition for administrative mandamus. Slip op. at 22-26. 
Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the judgment, resolving conflicts and drawing inferences in support of the judgment, we conclude that although this was a close case, as the trial court frankly acknowledged, the University provided substantial evidence from which the hearing officer could reasonably conclude that the University's personnel policies were violated.
Slip op. at 25-26. 

The opinion is available here.

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