Thursday, October 16, 2003
Opening of Some Courthouses Delayed as Sickout Resumes
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
A sickout by sheriff’s deputies resumed yesterday, delaying the opening of four Los Angeles Superior Court courthouses and slowing transportation of prisoners to court hearings, officials said.
A Sheriff’s Department spokesperson said all 11 deputies assigned to the Beverly Hills courthouse called in sick. Three of the four deputies assigned to the West Los Angeles courthouse, nine of 20 deputies assigned to the Santa Monica courthouse, and 11 of 24 deputies assigned to the Inglewood courthouse were absent, the spokesperson reported.
Judge Lisa Hart Cole, the Beverly Hills courthouse site judge, said the courthouse was able to open to the public on time, but only one of its four courtrooms could open before deputies were transferred from other locations. The three other courtrooms opened at about 11 a.m., Cole said.
West District Assistant Supervising Judge Linda K. Lefkowitz said the Santa Monica courthouse was able to admit jurors at about 8:30 a.m. and open to the public at about 9:30. The West Los Angeles courthouse opened to the public at about 9:15 or 9:30, but its traffic and small claims courtrooms remained closed until additional deputies arrived at about 10 a.m. or 10:30, she added.
Judge John Meigs, the Inglewood site judge, said his courthouse opened to the public at 8:30 a.m., about half an hour behind schedule. Three courtrooms opened at that time, three more about an hour later, and the rest by 10 a.m., Meigs reported.
The sheriff’s spokesperson said 219 of 427 deputies assigned to six jails also called in sick. A superior court spokesperson said that caused delays in transporting defendants to downtown criminal court appearances, but did not cause any defendants to miss their scheduled hearings.
County Chief Administrative Officer David Janssen last week warned supervisors to expect an intensification of the job action during the shortened workweek following the Columbus Day holiday, which kept the courts and county offices closed Monday.
Jails have been on lockdown intermittently since the sickout began late last month. Orange Superior Court Judge John Watson issued a preliminary injunction against the sickout Tuesday, replacing an earlier temporary restraining order.
Watson was assigned the case after all Los Angeles Superior Court judges disqualified themselves. The injunction bars the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs and its officers from influencing or coordinating the work action, which the union has claimed it is not doing.
It also bars individual deputies from participating, and the county had been serving copies of the TRO on them.
Watson declined a request from the union Tuesday for a TRO blocking the Sheriff’s Department from expediting discipline measures against deputies who call in sick. The Board of Supervisors declared an emergency last week and authorized expedited discipline, which would not be subject to the strictures of the collective bargaining agreement covering the deputies.
Assistant Sheriff R. Doyle Campbell said the department would begin suspending deputies who did not show up for work.
Deputies have been working without a contract since January, and negotiations have been stalled. The deputies’ union is asking for pay raises of 3 percent for each of the next three years—comparable to salary hikes in the latest Los Angeles Police Department contract—and deputies also want the county to offset rising health insurance costs.
Deputies’ wages have increased 19 percent through the last two three-year contracts.
Deputies earn an average of $71,100 per year. According to a December 2002 officer pay survey, Los Angeles County ranked 12th in California, surpassed by Glendale, Anaheim, Orange, Los Angeles and Pomona, the Los Angeles Times reported. San Francisco topped the list at $79,212.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company