Cal State Park officers go skinny-dipping at beach wedding, only Hispanic officer is disciplined. $325K. Orange County.

Summary

Hispanic State Parks officer goes skinny-dipping with white officers at wedding on the beach.  He is later subject to discipline while white officers are not.

The Case

  • Case Name: Ennio Rocca v. California Department of Parks and Recreation
  • Court and Case Number: Orange County Superior Court / 30-2019-01049866-CU-OE-NJC
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Tuesday, March 23, 2021
  • Date Action was Filed: Thursday, February 07, 2019
  • Type of Action: Discrimination, Racial, Highlighted Verdicts
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Craig Griffin
  • Plaintiffs:
    Ennio Rocca, 39
  • Defendants:
    California Department of Parks and Recreation
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $325,000
  • Non-Economic Damages:

    Past: $250,000

    Future $75,000

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 13 court days
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 2 1/2 days

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Law Office of Bijan Darvish by Bijan Darvish, Huntington Beach.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Office of the Attorney General by Rhea G. Mariano and Jacqueline H. Chern, Los Angeles.

     

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Plaintiff, a male Hispanic State Park Peace Officer, obtained a permit to hold his wedding at the State beach he supervised. He and at least four other off-duty State Park Peace Officers took off their clothes and went skinny-dipping in the ocean.  

    State Parks conducted an internal investigation against plaintiff only. Plaintiff was the only person disciplined. The other employees, who were White, were never investigated or disciplined. The disciplinary measure taken against plaintiff was a 10% salary reduction for three months and denial of State housing.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That State Parks discriminated against plaintiff on account of his race.

    That lifeguards have a tradition where they swim naked in the ocean, and State Parks does not usually cite for this violation. 

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    That defendant did not discriminate, but had legitimate reasons for its business decisions. Those reasons included, plaintiff was responsible because he was the permit holder for the special event permit he procured for his event, he was the supervising Peace Officer for the beach where he engaged in misconduct and invited employees and members of the public, and the Peace Officer Bill of Rights Act prevented any investigation of the White employees once they were questioned as witnesses instead of subjects. None of the other peace officers were supervisors of that beach. 

Additional Notes

The parties participated in a settlement conference, where a confidential settlement demand was made.

The COVID-19 measures made trial difficult. Jurors were spread throughout the courtroom. Some witnesses appeared via Zoom. Everyone in the courtroom wore masks at all times. 

Disclaimer

This is not an official court document. While the publisher believes the information to be accurate, the publisher does not guarantee it and the reader is advised not to rely upon it without consulting the official court documents or the attorneys of record in this matter who are listed above.

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