Lawsuit against Edmonds Police headed back to court

  • Jim Hills<br>Edmonds Enterprise editor
  • Monday, March 3, 2008 6:42am

A civil lawsuit by an Edmonds Police officer against the department is headed back to court.

Detective Ronda Rohde’s attorney, Mary Ruth Mann, said Monday that she has filed a motion in Snohomish County Superior Court asking for damages to be reconsidered or a new trial ordered.

The case is scheduled to be heard May 25 before Judge Ronald Castleberry, Mann said.

A jury ruling on April 14 was split on issues raised in the suit over the way the police department and city handled an ongoing domestic dispute between Rohde and a male officer.

The jury rejected the allegation that the department did not properly supervise her former partner. The jury agreed with the claim that the city was negligent in supervising others in the department in connection with the domestic dispute and said the city’s negligence did harm Rohde.

However, by a vote of 11-1, jurors decided that Rohde was entitled to no money. Rohde was asking for more than $1 million in damages.

“In the jury’s verdicts, there were inconsistencies,” Mann said Monday, May 9. “There is case law that the judge can award damages. Alternately, there can be a new trial.”

Mann said one concern raised in the motion is that in closing arguments, the defense referenced information that had been excluded during the trial. “We want the judge to go back and order a whole new trial,” she said.

Mann previously raised concerns that other allegations, including charges of city retaliation against Rohde and gender discrimination, were removed from consideration.

Mark Bucklin, the attorney representing the city, said Tuesday that papers have been filed in response to Mann’s motion. “There is no merit to these arguments,” Bucklin said. “That I lied in closing is particularly specious.”

In the suit, Rohde charged that the department negligently kept her ex-boyfriend on duty and failed to act when she reported domestic abuse.

The jury examined three incidents in which Rohde alleged domestic abuse, and how the department responded.

Bucklin said he was pleased with the April 14 verdict.

However, attorneys on both sides remained confused as to the apparent inconsistency of some of the jurors’ findings.

Bucklin said the city offered a settlement to Rohde before the trial, but she declined. He would not say how much was offered.

Mann said Rohde refused because the city insisted she step down as a police officer.

The Enterprise is withholding the male officer’s name because he was not named as a defendant and has not been charged with a crime. Rohde and the male officer have a child together.

Rohde is still an employee of the department, but went on medical leave recently, Mann said.

Jim Haley, a writer for The Herald in Everett, contributed to this story.

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