Federal courts affirm LE agencies as decision-makers in LEOSA applications

Court rules there is no private cause of action under LEOSA that would entitle a former officer to relief after her application for an identification card was denied


By Richard Plotkin

When Congress enacted the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (LEOSA) in 2004, it did not intend to flood the federal courts with cases to determine who meets the qualification standards.

While any number of factors, including mental health and whether or not the officer retired in good standing, can preclude an officer from receiving an identification card, the Federal Courts have only recently upheld the original intent of LEOSA to allow law enforcement agencies to be the arbiter of such decisions – without question from the judiciary.

The Eleventh Circuit has specifically held that there is no private cause of action under LEOSA.
The Eleventh Circuit has specifically held that there is no private cause of action under LEOSA.

Eleventh circuit court rules on LEOSA case

Earlier this month, in a case tried before the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, The City of Neptune Beach Police Department (NBPD) argued there was no private cause of action under LEOSA that would entitle a former officer to relief after her application for an identification card was denied.

The case, Camille Burban v. The City of Neptune Beach, originated from a suit filed by former NBPD officer Camille Burban (known as “Burban”) against the City for its refusal to provide her with a law enforcement identification card that she requested pursuant to LEOSA. It was the determination of NBPD that Burban did not qualify to receive an identification card, as NBPD had determined that Burban did not separate from the agency in good standing.

In the underlying complaint, Burban argued that the City of Neptune Beach arbitrarily denied Burban of her identification card, which resulted in injuries under LEOSA that she claimed NBPD was liable for. Burban’s suit challenged the NBPD requirements as inconsistent with federal law. She asserted that she met the definition of a “qualified retired law enforcement officer,” as defined in LEOSA, and the City’s refusal to supply her with the LEOSA identification deprived her of federal rights conferred upon by LEOSA and enforceable under 42 U.S.C. §1983.

Although Congress may have intended that LEOSA benefit some retired law enforcement officers, it clearly did not intend to benefit all retired law enforcement officers. If so, Congress would have left the requirement language out of Section (a) in LEOSA except to require the states to issue such identification.

Therefore, as the Court correctly held, reading LEOSA in the way Burban suggested would significantly expand the effect of the Act. Under Burban’s reading of LEOSA, the statute would require states to authorize any retired officer who falls within its definition of a “qualified retired law enforcement officer” to carry a concealed weapon. It would affirmatively require all states, even those that themselves did not issue concealed carry permits, to begin issuing the identification that would do just that. Such a result is not in any way supported by the plain language or history of LEOSA.

While this was a case of first impression within the Eleventh Circuit, it was not the first time the Judiciary addressed such an issue. The DC Circuit Court of Appeals in DuBerry v. District of Columbia, 824 F.3d 1046 (D.C. Cir. 2016) held that LEOSA created an individual right of the kind actionable under §1983, but there was not a single other court throughout the 50 states that adopted this position, clearly showing that Congress did not intend for the Federal Court to be the arbiters of these decisions.

Now, the Eleventh Circuit has specifically held that there is no private cause of action under LEOSA. This is the controlling precedent in the Eleventh Circuit and will certainly be cited by other Circuits throughout the land so as to grant law enforcement agencies the opportunity to determine when to issue an identification card when such a request is made by a “qualified retired law enforcement officer,” and not have their decisions questioned by the Federal Judiciary.


About the author

Richard Plotkin is a shareholder at GrayRobinson (Jacksonville) where he focuses his practice on civil and complex commercial litigation with an area of emphasis on business litigation, landlord-tenant disputes, collections and foreclosures, real property litigation, employment law and insurance coverage. He has extensive jury and nonjury trial experience and is a member of the Florida Litigation Team for the largest publicly traded real estate company in North America.

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