As noted above, the Texas Transportation Code generally prohibits a political subdivision from evaluating an officer based on a predetermined or specified number of any type or combination of types of traffic citations. The words "predetermined" and "specified number" are not defined in the Transportation Code.
When possible, Courts determine legislative intent from the plain meaning of the words chosen.
Interpreting the statute according to the plain meaning of the words chosen, there is no indication that the City has violated the Transportation Code because there is no evidence that the City in any way directed its patrol officers to issue a predetermined or specified number of traffic citations.Source: Report of Investigation.
In more than one post, I stated that I thought that the City did direct its patrol officers to issue a predetermined or specific number of traffic citations. The investigator, Wayne Olson, thought they did not.
How do we settle this disagreement? You might be inclined to accept the opinion of the lawyer with decades of experience defending cities and police departments over the opinion of a random blogger. In truth, that wouldn't be such a dumb initial position. But the lawyer admits that the words "predetermined" and "specified number" are not defined in the Transportation Code. He admits there's no case law further refining the definitions. There's no Attorney General's opinion to use for guidance. He's relying on his own understanding of the "plain meaning" of the words chosen, not any decided legal definition.
I've served on a jury where a key question posed to the twelve of us was whether one party to a dispute acted under "duress." We discussed it among the jury and couldn't settle on an answer, in part because we couldn't settle on a common definition of "duress." So we asked the judge for a legal definition. He answered, as Olson answers here, that the word is not defined in the statute. He instructed the jury that we had to use our own understanding of the plain meaning of this common English word. He wasn't going to define it for us.
I'm a native speaker of English. I like to think that I have a decent vocabulary and a working understanding of what words mean. So here's the point. If this question ever reaches a jury, my understanding of the plain meaning of the statute is every bit as valid as the lawyer's. The City Council does not have to take his word for it. You do not have to take his word for it. I know I don't.
What if a patrol officer was told by his superior that he had to have, say, an average of three stops a day over each and every month or he'd be subject to serious disciplinary action. Would *that* count as a quota in the "plain meaning" of the law? Tune in tomorrow.