Tuesday, October 21, 2003
Beverly Hills Courtroom Deputies to Face Judge Today
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
Courtroom deputies who work at the Los Angeles Superior Court Beverly Hills courthouse face a hearing before a judge in Orange County today after calling in sick last week.
Orange Superior Court Judge John M. Watson ordered the deputies to appear before him to explain why they should not be found in contempt of the preliminary injunction he issued last Tuesday. On Wednesday, all 11 deputies assigned to the Beverly Hills courthouse called in sick.
A sickout by deputies, including those assigned to the courts, has been going on intermittently since late last month.
Contract talks between the county and the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs have been stalled. The union’s pay contract expired Jan. 31 and its fringe benefits contract expired at the end of last month.
ALADS has disclaimed responsibility for the job action, ascribing it to employee frustration.
Last week county Chief Administrative Officer David Janssen warned that deputies who participate in the sickout could “ruin” their careers. Janssen described Los Angeles County judges as “furious” about the slowdowns in their courts caused by the sickouts.
Participation in the sickout has waned in recent days, and the courts have reported no problems since Thursday.
Under emergency authority given to him by the Board of Supervisors, Sheriff Lee Baca can suspend or dock the pay of deputies who engage in sickouts. Janssen said the penalties could get increasingly severe.
In a statement released Friday, ALADS president Roy Burns declared:
“Our dedication to service continues, but the real threat to public safety is deteriorating officer morale....
“....We see the threat that low morale poses to public safety in Los Angeles County. And if ALADS members are frustrated, it is only because we see it and Los Angeles County management doesn’t.”
Principal Deputy County Counsel Rick Brouwer, who represents the sheriff’s department, said last week the 11 Beverly Hills deputies were targeted for contempt because of the timing of their actions.
“We’ve already put before the court the sophistication of the organization,” Brower explained. He said it was “very hard to imagine that 11 out of 11 deputies called in sick” without some coordination.
The case is before Watson because all Los Angeles Superior Court judges recused themselves.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company