LAS VEGAS (CN) - In a federal class action, 12 deputy constables and process servers say Clark County officials conspired to abolish the Las Vegas Township Constable's Office and fire them unconstitutionally.
Lead plaintiff Austin Dowd claims that the class of deputy constables and process servers are "victims of what can only be properly termed as a systematic 'shakedown' and conspiracy against the elected constable perpetrated by defendants under the pretext of authority and enforcement of an unconstitutional statute, NRS 258.010(3), (3)(b)."
The statute allows a county board of commissioners to determine if a township constable is necessary and to appoint a replacement when there is a township constable vacancy.
The Clark County Board of Commissioners in March 2013 voted to abolish the constable's office. The vote came after a reality TV pilot episode depicted "foul-mouthed deputies," conflicts with county officials over financial matters and jurisdictional arguments with other constables, the Las Vegas Review Journal reported.
Constable John Bonaventura challenged the commission's decision in Clark County Court but lost. He claimed the commission had violated the Open Meetings Act by agreeing before its March meeting to abolish the office to get rid of him, and intended to restore it afterward, the Review Journal reported.
In the new lawsuit, filed Jan. 23, Dowd "seeks redress for the defendants' unlawful oppression under color of law, due process and civil rights violations."
He says "oppression" includes violations of Nevada's Peace Officers Bill of Rights, which requires cause to remove a peace officer.
He seeks class certification declaratory judgment that NRS 258.010(3), (3)(b) is unconstitutional, and an injunction.
He claims that Bonaventura's removal cost the plaintiffs "meaningful constitutional property interests in their employment and pay," in violation of the Fourth, Fifth and 14th Amendments, and that the commissioners and other county officials conspired to remove Bonaventura and keep him off the November ballot, which caused his term as constable to end on Jan. 4.
"It is this very conspiracy," Dowd says, that deprived the class of "substantial constitutionally protected interests in their employment and income without due process rights."
The Clark County Board of Commissioners and Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department announced on Jan. 2 that the constable's office would become part of the police department's Detention Services Division.
Dowd says the deputy constables and process servers received emails from the police department stating that they no longer were qualified for employment based on undisclosed issues with their backgrounds, and that none were notified of any cause for their removal, as required by Nevada law.
Dowd is represented by Robert B. Pool.
Subscribe to Closing Arguments
Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.