County still seeking immunity in deputy's case over wrongful termination

David Yates Jul. 20, 2011, 10:13am

Although a local judge granted Jefferson County immunity from a former peace officer nearly three years ago, the county is still battling to make the ruling official.

In September 2008, Larry Roccaforte, a former chief constable for Precinct 7, won his case against his former boss and was awarded more than $126,000 in damages for his alleged wrongful termination.

Roccaforte filed a civil suit against the county and his fellow officers in June 2006, alleging his constitutional rights were violated when he was fired for not reporting to duty following Hurricane Rita in 2005 and for forging a court document while on probation.

A few weeks before his trial was set to start, presiding Judge Milton Shuffield, 136th District Court, approved a motion filed by the county seeking governmental immunity.

Roccaforte appealed the judge's ruling, arguing the county violated his rights under the Texas Constitution, relying on section 89.0041 of the Texas Local Government Code to validate his claims, court papers say.

On March 5, 2009, justices on the Texas Ninth District Court of Appeals affirmed Shuffield's ruling.

Court records show that on April 29 the Texas Supreme Court also issued an opinion upholding Judge Shuffield's ruling.

A hearing to enter the judgment was slated to be held Wednesday, July 20, but Roccaforte's attorney, Larry Watts, requested a continuance.

A court official told the Southeast Texas Record that the judge granted a two-week continuance.

Assistant District Attorney Tom Rugg represents the county.

Trial case No. D177-131

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