COCRA’s CA Court Closures/Furlough Tracker
COCRA will be leaving this post as a sticky towards the top of the blog and we’ll be updating it with information on how each county is handling the court closures and furloughs. Although the legislation allowing for court closures may make it appear as if every county is acting in a uniform fashion, a quick read through of this post will show that it most certainaly is not. We will be updating this post with information as we receive it so be sure to continue to check back. And of course if you have anything to add in terms of how your particular county is implementing court closures and furloughs, drop us a line or leave a comment and we’ll update the blog posting.
UPDATED: October 5th, 2009
San Mateo County: ER Avoided
(Check back for updates.)
LOS ANGELES COUNTY
LA county began closing their courts July 15th in a planned 12 day, one day a month court closure plan that the court has enacted to deal with a projected $138 million budget shorfall. The Los Angeles Times has an article on how things went for the first day of the county’s planned court closures.
Most of the county’s 600 courtrooms were closed Wednesday, and 93% of 5,400 court employees were told to stay home, taking what amounts to about a 5% pay cut. On any given day, the courts normally handle 10,000 hearings and serve about 100,000 who pass through the county’s 50 courthouses.
At least one courtroom was kept open in most courthouses to handle required hearings and felony bench warrants, court spokeswoman Vania Stuelp said. Those courtrooms also heard domestic violence, elder abuse and civil harassment restraining order cases involving stalking or threats of violence.
The closures and unpaid furloughs are expected to save about $18 million. Officials said courtrooms may be permanently closed and up to 25% of staff laid off if there are no drastic improvements in the court’s budget outlook.
Santa Clara County Superior Court, represented by SEIU Local 521, began negotiation talks this week, for not only the expiration of its MOU in October, but for furlough days. The offer this week from management was 10 furlough days, September to June, and no employees coming to work. It is expected that the contract will be extended for two years with no changes.
Santa Clara has had a hiring freeze in place since January of 2008. Court Reporters, however, have contract language protecting them from hiring freezes. There are currently four court reporter positions open. Reporters have agreed to not filling these positions right away to do their part in helping with the economic crisis, but at the same time, making sure Pro Tems are being utilized.
SANTA CRUZ COUNTY
(Check back for updates.)
SAN FRANCISCO COUNTY
San Francisco Superior Court has begun meetings with a coalition of union representatives representing court clerks, court reporters, court managers, and court interpreters. The court has expressed in the meetings to close the courts one day a month in alignment with the legislation and that they do not expect court employees to show up to work. Although past media reports have had SF Superior Court closing its doors on August 19th, the CEO sent out an email July 17th saying the courts would not be closed on the 19th of August but on the 16th of July.
SAN MATEO COUNTY
UPDATE: Officials in San Mateo managed to lobby a majority of their judges to vote against an internal ballot among judges that would have resulted in allowing ER in San Mateo and also forcing civil attorneys to bring their own reporters into the civil limited jurisdiction courts. Also, three part-time reporters who had been laid off have now been offered full time employment by court admin. As of this posting, two have accepted the positions.
San Mateo court reporters may be included in a group of employees that will be laid off due to a $3.89 million error with the court’s finance department. Click here to read full story.
Stanislaus County (Modesto) AFSCME represented employees were faced with a vote for furloughs in lieu of possible layoffs. 75% of the membership voted to accept a 13-day furlough resulting in a 5% pay cut over the next fiscal year. Furloughs began effective July 20 and are employees are scheduling time off in 4-hour or 8-hour blocks through their supervisor based on court coverage. Any statewide court closures will replace the scheduled furlough days, not become additional unpaid days. Furlough days will not affect retirement, accruals or health benefits. Also, all represented employees received a scheduled .5% increase due on July 1, but a 1.3% commitment for equity increases applicable to specific clerical employees (not reporters) due to a recent internal survey has been delayed until June 30, 2010. The court implemented a hiring freeze and shortened public hours. Clerk’s office hours will be 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM, effective today.
Here’s what our COCRA member in Ventura County has to report in regards to Ventura County Superior Court.
SEIU 721 members voted to participate in a furlough program that will save Ventura courts $1.1 million. 95% of the votes were ayes. The 12-day furlough plan structure took effect on July 1, 2009, through June 30, 2010. If the AOC mandates the third Wednesday of each moth for closure, that will be the furlough day or If the AOC does not mandate closure, there will be flexibility between each worker and their supervisor to take the 12 furlough days.
SEIU members will receive their negotiated salary increase of 2.25 effective June 28th. Court Reporters are hooked into Los Angeles wages, so I’m not sure if we’ll be getting a salary increase. The payroll deduction will be bi-weekly for 26 pay periods of approximately 3.69 hours per pay period beginning in July.
Retirement accrual or other compensation except for overtime pay will not be negatively impacted. Furlough time cannot be used to compute overtime. Additionally, “voluntary furlough” days will require a contract agreeing to how many days the employee will take in the next fiscal year. You cannot take partial days, just whole days.
Ventura County Superior Court mandated both management and nonrepresented employees to take one furlough day a month for fiscal year ’09/’10.
Updated July 31, 2009
Ventura County judges have voted to declare a court furlough day on August 19. Because August 19 will not be an official court holiday, four courtrooms will need to be kept in operation for custody arraignments, TRO’S, last-day trials, PX’s, unlawful detainer, and juvenile emergency matters.
From an article published in the Daily Democrat:
The Yolo Superior Court is imposing a 12-day mandatory furlough program starting Wednesday, Aug. 19.
“Despite cost saving measures already in place, a Court-wide furlough is necessary in order to absorb the staggering reductions to the Court’s operational budget as proposed by the State”, said Jim Perry, court executive officer, in a prepared statement.
Presiding Judge Dave Rosenberg remarked that “We can’t fiddle while Sacramento burns. Courts have to be pro-active, we have to do our share, and we will. Yolo joins a growing list of courts statewide that have had to institute furloughs in order to cope with severe budget reductions.”