A California Court of Appeal has affirmed a lower court's decision to award George Jaramillo nearly $529,000 in backpay and lawyer fees because the former Orange County assistant sheriff's 2004 firing blatantly violated the state's peace officer's bill of rights (POBRA).
Jaramillo, once the cocky second in command at the Orange County Sheriff's Department and a close pal to disgraced Sheriff Mike Carona, recently emerged from federal prison following corruption convictions.
The appellate ruling announced today in Santa Ana firmly rejected claims by Orange County's lawyers that Jaramillo wasn't entitled to any money because he is a convicted felon.
How dismal was the county's case argued by David D. Lawrence and Jin S. Choi? A three-justice panel lead by William Rylaarsdam, who wrote the colorful opinion, ordered the county to pay Jaramillo's lawyer fees for the appeal too.
The opinion tersely called the county's position "unpersuasive." Jaramillo was clearly entitled to an administrative hearing and other POBRA rights prior to being fired, according to the justices. The county (and Carona) maintained that Carona could fire any assistant sheriff "at will" and without reason.
But will Jaramillo actually get the money ($184,000 in backpay and $345,000 in lawyer fees)?
In 2009, U.S. District Court Judge Andrew J. Guilford ordered that Jaramillo wasn't entitled to any funds if he won his civil lawsuit against the county for violating the POBRA. Guilford's reasoning? Jaramillo had abused his powerful public office for illegal financial gain. But earlier this year, a federal appeals court panel tossed out that conviction, voided the judge's related restitution order and sent the case back for final resolution.
Guilford has scheduled a Nov. 14 hearing.
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If anyone has forgotten the degree of corruption at the OSCD under Carona and Jaramillo, read Rylaarsdam's published opinion (G043142 & G043813). It's a good, brief summary of the depravity.
Carona, once a potential U.S. Senate candidate from Orange County, is serving a 5.5-year federal prison sentence.
He was eventually replaced by Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, a former high-ranking member of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly