Monday, October 21, 2002
Bailiff Services to Be Cut in Court’s Latest Budget Move
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Fewer bailiffs and other sheriff’s deputies will staff Los Angeles Superior Court civil courtrooms around the county in the wake of an agreement to cut the Sheriff’s Department contract for staffing and security, a court official said Friday.
As expected, the series of measures that culminated in the delivery Friday of layoff notices to nearly 100 Superior Court employees included a renegotiation of the Sheriff’s Department contract to slash $9.7 million a year.
Details of the agreement were not immediately available, and Sheriff’s Department officials said Sheriff Lee Baca has yet to give final approval to the plan.
Court Public Information Officer Allan Parachini said the most apparent impact will be in civil courtrooms outside the Stanley Mosk Courthouse, where courtroom attendants have been serving in lieu of bailiffs for several years.
The new arrangement will call for courtroom attendants—noticeable by their blue blazers with Superior Court patches—to serve the traditionally bailiffing functions in civil courtrooms in some “outlying” courthouses, Parachini said.
Those functions include keeping order and getting witnesses in and out of the courtroom.
Attendants are not certified peace officers and do not carry weapons. They will not be assigned to custody criminal matters or family law matters.
Chief Taylor Moorhead of the sheriff’s court services division was unavailable yesterday for comment. In recent weeks, though, he described discussions with the court as “friendly,” even though they would result in less money for a law enforcement department already suffering from budget cuts.
“There are certain areas where we will not change,” Moorhead said. “Where you have family law and criminal [courtrooms] there will be bailiffs. But you can’t keep a level of courts open and impose cuts and not feel the impact.”
The court is required by state law to contract with the Sheriff’s Department for bailiffing and security services. The Sheriff’s Department subcontracts out some security functions, but the court lacks the authority to work with another law enforcement agency.
As expected, the Superior Court by Nov. 1 will curtail custody criminal cases at three courthouses—Hollywood, South Gate and Monrovia. All criminal matters will be removed from Monrovia.
Closure of courtrooms at various locations were announced Friday, but it remained unclear which departments would be affected. Parachini said the court today would begin posting on its website which specific departments would close and where parties, counsel and witnesses with matters schedules for those courtrooms should report.
The website address is www.lasuperiorcourt.org.
William Vickrey, director of the state Administrative Office of the Courts, said several members of his finance staff would arrive at the Superior Court today to begin a “review” of the steps the court has taken to get its budget into line.
Vickrey noted that the court asked the AOC for assistance in August when the dimension of its budget problem became apparent.
“We share the same interest that L.A. does,” Vickrey said. “Being sure that money is being spent as effectively and as efficiently as possible.
The court on Friday began notifying employees who were to be laid off by Nov. 1. Far fewer than the 150 that the court at first feared would be laid off got their notices.
Assistant Presiding Judge-Elect William MacLaughlin explained that the court has a higher level of attrition than expected.
At least one court employee got good news in recent days. Referee Bruce Toomer, who was slated to lose his post in Compton, was rehired by the court to serve in his previous position as an informal traffic referee in Juvenile Court.
“He was talked into taking the assignment in Compton, but we did have a spot for him to come back to,” Juvenile Court Presiding Judge Michael Nash said.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company