Thursday, October 2, 2003
Deputy Sickout Closes Five Courts; Judge Grants TRO
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
A sickout of sheriff’s deputies kept five Los Angeles Superior Court courthouses shuttered yesterday and delayed the opening of two others, and a judge agreed to order the deputies’ union not to encourage or influence deputies to call in sick.
Orange Superior Court Judge John Watson said at an afternoon hearing in Santa Ana that while the county had not “shown the union has done anything wrong,” there was “circumstantial evidence” that its leaders “may have had influence over” the failure of deputies to report for work.
The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs has denied coordinating the sickout. Yesterday 320 of the 920 deputies assigned to the courts did not show up, after 224 failed to report Tuesday, a county spokesperson said.
Five courthouses remained closed for the entire day yesterday or opened only briefly before closing for the day, a Superior Court spokesperson said.
Those were the downtown Central Arraignment Court, Central Civil West, and the Hollywood, Chatsworth, and Norwalk courthouses.
The Stanley Mosk Courthouse downtown was closed to the public until 11:30 a.m., when deputies transferred from other duties were able to provide security services there. The Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center opened at 8:30 a.m., about half an hour late.
The sickout has interrupted court activities intermittently for over a week.
Watson agreed to issue the temporary restraining order which the county Board of Supervisors voted on Tuesday to seek. He said the union could be fined, or its leaders jailed, if it is shown to be supporting the job action.
The deputies’ pay contract expired Jan. 31 and their fringe benefits contract expired at midnight Tuesday.
The county’s request for a TRO was moved to Santa Ana after ALADS objected to its being heard by any Los Angeles Superior Court judge. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David P. Yaffe granted the request yesterday morning, saying he was doing so to speed up the process.
Judge Carolyn Kuhl, supervisor of the master calendar, then took the bench and assigned the case to Watson.
The county has obtained injunctions against job actions twice in the past, in 1997 against deputies and in 2000 against nurses and other union workers.
A crowd of attorneys, jurors and litigants lined the streets yesterday morning outside the Mosk Courthouse as they waited for word to enter, and criminal cases from Hollywood and the Central Arraignment Court were moved to the Foltz courthouse downtown.
Sheriff Lee Baca issued an appeal to his deputies yesterday, saying he sympathized with their frustration but declaring that any “unnecessary absence by any of us will hurt our ability to...protect the men, women and children of this County.”
Baca pledged to support the deputies in seeking “fairness—when it comes to pay and benefits.”
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company