Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, April 7, 2005


Page 1


Bill to Upgrade Status of Law Clerks Clears Assembly Committee


By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer/Appellate Courts


Legislation that would grant Los Angeles Superior Court law clerks permanent employee status 180 days after beginning work was approved yesterday by an Assembly committee.

The Committee on Public Employees, Retirement, and Social Security approved the bill on a party-line vote of 4-2, a spokesperson said. Democrats Alberto Torrico of Fremont, Dave Jones of Sacramento, Gene Mullin of South San Francisco, and Gloria Negrete McLeod of  Montclair voted in favor, while Republicans Sam Blakeslee of San Luis Obispo and Roger Niello of Sacramento voted against.

As originally introduced by Assemblyman Rudy Bermudez, D-Norwalk, the bill would have applied to all trial court employees hired on a fulltime but non-permanent basis statewide, whether initially classified as temporary or “limited term.” But when court officials in other counties voiced concerns, union official Michael Boggs explained, Bermudez and American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 910 agreed to amend the bill to have it apply only to Los Angeles County and only to law clerks.

Local 901 represents the Superior Court’s research attorneys and law clerks. Boggs is its president.

The bill would specify that Los Angeles Superior Court law clerks are covered by Government Code Sec. 71601(m), which provides that “a temporary employee...shall not be employed in the trial court for a period exceeding 180 calendar days” without being reclassified as permanent.

As permanent employees, they would be entitled to higher compensation and to fringe benefits not available to temporary or “limited term” employees.

If it becomes law, the bill would effectively undo an arbitrator’s ruling that law clerks, who are hired for one year at a time, are “limited term” and not “temporary” employees and thus not entitled to reclassification within the meaning of that subdivision of the code.

Court officials were said to be in meetings yesterday and unavailable for comment on the bill. The Judicial Council submitted comments in opposition, saying the bill “inappropriately interferes with the local bargaining process and unfairly limits the trial courts’ authority as employers.”

The council explained:

“AB 176 prohibits an employment model that is common in the Executive branch and is usually governed by Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between an employer and their employee representatives. No other major employment laws contain a  strict restriction on limited-term employees. For most public employees, temporary and limited-term issues are negotiated in local bargaining agreements.”

AFSCME, which was extensively involved in the process that resulted in passage of the Trial Court Employment Protection and Governance Act, of which Sec. 71601(m) is a part, said it was never the intent of the Legislature to treat limited term employees differently under that subdivision.


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