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The Program Questions & Answers

What are the benefits of Membership?

As a Member of John Chung Law, you will receive legal representation from an experienced attorney with specialized expertise in the Department’s employee discipline process. For any act of alleged misconduct that occurs during your membership period, your attorney will meet with you before your subject interview by the Office of Internal Affairs to fully discuss your case. Your attorney will accompany you to the interview to ensure that your rights are not violated. If you are disciplined, your attorney will perform a legal analysis of the Department’s notice of adverse action. Your attorney will advocate on your behalf at the Skelly hearing and, if necessary, will file your appeal to the State Personnel Board. Your attorney will also file all of the necessary pleadings with the Board and will negotiate on your behalf at the pre-hearing settlement conference. If the case is confirmed for a hearing, your attorney will pay for all the necessary costs associated with presenting the evidence necessary for your defense.

My union already provides me with a representative, so why do I need another attorney?

CDCR’s employee discipline system is a combination of investigative and legal processes that can take several years to resolve. Most bargaining units do not guarantee that a licensed attorney will serve as your representative. Even the ones that do provide an attorney do not guarantee that a licensed attorney will represent you all the way through an appeal before the State Personnel Board. For example, while members of CCPOA enjoy the benefits of an attorney during their interview with the Office of Internal Affairs, CCPOA members are not guaranteed the representation of a CCPOA staff attorney if they decide to appeal a disciplinary action to the SPB! According to CCPOA’s Standard Operating Procedure, members who want to obtain CCPOA legal representation at State Personnel Board hearings must apply for it and receive approval from the union’s Legal Defense Committee or the union’s Legal Defense Review Panel. ”If the committee refuses to grant approval or if the employee desires to do so, he/she may represent himself/herself or retain, at his/her own expense, an attorney for representation.” Furthermore, it is not widely known that “an employee disciplined for off-duty conduct is not eligible for, and will not be considered for, CCPOA legal representation unless the Chapter President petitions for representation.” (CCPOA Weekly Update – January 20, 2012). Unfortunately, most employees do not realize they will be without legal representation during an SPB appeal until it’s too late and they are left with no option other than to spend upwards of $20,000.00 for a private attorney.

Additionally, John Chung Law attorneys offer an unrivaled level of experience and expertise in every phase of the discipline process. Union appointed and privately hired attorneys have never participated in a case conference with the Warden and Department attorneys to discuss why an allegation should or should not be sustained. Nor have they participated in a case conference with the Office of Internal Affairs to discuss how an investigation should be conducted and what agents should focus on. Union attorneys have never participated in a discussion with department attorneys to discuss what factors need to be present to settle a case with the Department when the case is appealed to the SPB. Your union and the attorneys retained by your union play a very important role in other areas not covered by John Chung Law – for example, labor issues, contract negotiations, grievances, and representation during witness interviews. Our mission is not to replace the benefits of your union, but to provide enhanced and supplemental representation in the critical arena of employee discipline.

As a Member of the Program, you will be represented at every critical juncture of the case by an attorney who has years of experience and full familiarity with all of the processes and all of the decision makers so that you can achieve the best outcome possible. That is what we describe as “the John Chung Law difference.”

You only have one shot at protecting your reputation and career when the Department accuses you of misconduct. Don’t take chances and don’t settle for anything less than the best. If you or someone you loved had a life threatening illness and you needed a surgeon, you would never “settle” for the doctor that someone else selected for you. You would seek out and demand the most experienced and most talented doctor you could find. Don’t treat your professional career and your good name with any less care. You deserve the best so you should demand the best.

I understand the benefits of the Program, but is the cost of the Program worth it?

Most CDCR employees do not realize how valuable their career truly is. Consider the following example:

Correctional Officer Smith begins his career with CDCR at age 20. He works hard for 30 years and retires at age 50. He begins to enjoy his retirement and current life expectancy figures show that Officer Smith will collect his pension for the next 27 years. Using a deliberately underestimated average annual salary of $65,000, and NOT factoring in any over-time, promotions, raises, cost of living increases, or the fully paid for life-time medical benefits, Officer Smith’s CDCR career is worth just over 3.5 Million Dollars!

Some people may believe that this is a function of the enhanced benefit of the state’s Peace Officer retirement formula. But the careers of “free staff” are just as valuable. Consider a non-sworn employee who is under the state’s “safety retirement” formula and makes an average of $45,000. If that employee completes 30 years with the Department, retires at age 55, and begins collecting her pension, she will have had a career that is worth more than $2 Million Dollars! And again, this is not factoring in promotions, cost of living increases, raises, or medical benefits!

Your career, regardless of your job classification, is worth millions of dollars and affords you the opportunity to provide a quality life for yourself and your family. For around $1 a day, you can become a Member and take an active role in protecting your most valuable property.

Additionally, even if your career is not at risk, the CDCR employee disciplinary matrix requires, in the vast majority of cases where a penalty other than dismissal or demotion is imposed, a salary reduction of 5% or 10% for a period of time ranging between 3 and 24 months. In these difficult economic times for the State in general and public sector employees in particular, can you or your family take another 5-10% reduction to your paycheck for the next 2 years?

Think of all the things that you might spend $30-$40 a month on (coffee, a few lunches, a gym membership that you hardly use) and ask yourself if protecting your career isn’t worth at least as much.

The question, then, is not, “Can I afford to become a member?”

The question really is, “Can I afford not to become a member?“

What if I become a member and never get accused of misconduct or face disciplinary action?

If you can go your entire career without even being accused by an inmate or a parolee or another employee of being negligent or committing some other act of misconduct, you should be commended and your retirement will have been well deserved. Even still, being a Member would have been worth the low cost of membership because it will have afforded you peace of mind and assurance that you were well protected. People who spend thousands of dollars on car insurance do not complain at the end of the year because they did not file an insurance claim, because that means it was an accident and injury free year for them and their family. Being a Member is also a wise economic investment because paying dues for an entire 30 year career is still less expensive than what most employees spend to hire a private attorney for a single appeal!

What if an incident has already occurred or I am already under investigation?

Legal representation from the Program only applies to allegations that are the result of acts or omissions that occur after Membership, but that does not mean nothing can be done. If you are currently under investigation or you have a pending appeal before the State Personnel Board, you can still take advantage of the legal experience and expertise that John Chung Law attorneys provide.

Contact John Chung Law today for a free consultation and have one of our attorneys review your case and assist you through this process. Even if you have been appointed a representative or have retained an attorney, our attorneys will give you an independent assessment of your case and let you know if we can help. It’s never too late to get the right attorney to handle your case, so exercise your right to choose how your career will be protected.

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