San Mateo Court Employees Protest Court Closures

The rain broke briefly yesterday for protesting court workers who say they are getting hit from fiscal mismanagement on all sides and are calling on the state not to extend monthly closures that make work harder on other days.

Hoisting signs declaring “Save our Courts” and “Justice delayed is justice denied,” roughly 40 workers gathered outside the County Government Center in Redwood City to proclaim the state has the resources to stay open the third Wednesday of every month. Inside, the courts were locked and offices empty — a result of the once-monthly furlough day the state implemented last year to close the courts’ budget gap.

While the closures hit the workers’ pocketbooks, those gathered Wednesday spoke of the burden on families, children and anyone relying on the courts.

“When courts close the public suffers,” said Annette Ruiz-Vides, a fiscal office specialist in the courts’ accounting division.

Ruiz-Vides told of a domestic violence victim trying to get a restraining order. The first attempt, she was met with a closed court. The next, the line was so long due to the backlog the woman never got in.

Cynthia Howard, a legal office specialist with the Sheriff’s Office and SEIU Local 521 vice chair, said a man tried to self-surrender at the jail but was forced to leave because of backed up paperwork due to the closure.

Voting against these closures, is a vote for the battered women and the children, they said.

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23 responses to “San Mateo Court Employees Protest Court Closures

  1. Hundreds of employees came out in protest of the closures in Los Angeles and Bakersfield, as well. Additionally, employees throughout the state lobbied legislative offices on a whole host of issues dealing with the judiciary. The Legislature is certainly taking notice and want some change and accountability going forward.

  2. Obi-Wan Kenobi

    Thank you SEIU ! YOU ROCK!

  3. Thank you! We’re trying….

  4. SEIU, I know a number of people who are members of SEIU or at least work in various government positions where they are likely SEIU members. So I would love to help.
    But ….. are you ready to actually DO something? I know you and others would like to have funds diverted from CCMS to paying the line court workers. But wishes aren’t enough. Are you ready to be part of an effort to create an alternative to CCMS?

  5. justinianscode

    CCMS funding is merely one of many symptoms, and as a symptom it helps us identify the real systemic problem: Judicial Branch governance is broken. Only when branch governance is straightened out will we be able to address the symptoms in any meaningful fashion.

  6. Justinianscode, you are correct. However, in the short run, the patient is bleeding to death. I think the largest portion of the financial bleeding is due to CCMS. Would you agree?

    • Obi-Wan Kenobi

      I would disagree computergeek.
      CCMS is only a symptom.
      Lucrative DOD-type cost plus contracts – a symptom
      Continued use of unlicensed contractors – a symptom.
      Terminating whistleblowers – a symptom
      57 employees blown out of the HR department alone in 3 years – a symptom
      Use of non-disclosura agreements in public agency settlements – a symptom
      Shapiro fund – a symptom
      No-bid public works contracts – a symptom
      SBx2-11 – a symptom
      $86,000.00 meetings to discuss budget challenges – a symptom.

      All of these are symptoms of serious issues in judicial branch governance. Many have the appearance of public corruption.

  7. Okay. I agree it’s a symptom. But isn’t it the largest symptom financially?

    • SEIU:

      How many of your court-employed members got COLAs this year? Step increases? MSAs? And what was the total cost to the branch of those COLAs, increases, and MSAs?

      • Obi-Wan Kenobi

        Even AOC employees are bent out of shape because some 80 people got raises while some 500 took voluntary furloughs – so your insistence on changing the message tells us you were one of the priviliged 80.

        Union contracts were already negotiated in good faith. Promises made by the AOC in labor negotiations should be kept.

      • Judge Dredd
        First, the cost to the branch of trial court employees salary increases, to the extent increases were received, was zero. These pay increases are paid from each trial court’s operating budget. A court cannot request additional funding by a budget change request to cover salary increases.

        I don’t believe evaluating the AOC’s compensations policies by looking at the trial courts’ policies is a fair comparison. Many trial court employees are represented and therefore, courts are contractually obligated to pay step increases and merit increases if required to do so by the labor agreement. I don’t believe AOC employees are represented and there compensation is not subject to a labor agreement or other contract. Therefore, unlike represented trial court employees, AOC employees do not have a contractual right to pay increases. As management, Courts are subject to labor laws and meet and confer requirements. Conversely, the AOC was not compelled by contract to give raises, particularly to management employees.

        I also know a number of courts implemented furloughs, reduced hours, layoffs, so clearly not everyone is getting raises. As came up in the recent JC meeting, there are funding disparities among the courts. Some courts can absorb budget reductions better than others. If courts, who were not required give pay increases did so without sufficient reserves to cover budget reductions, those courts are subject to criticism. Of course, it is difficult to negotiate when the unions know the courts have historically received SAL increases to offset pay increases.
        For AOC management to use trial court compensation as an excuse for its questionable decisions is disingenuous and shows a lack of accountability. The AOC’s compensation decisions should be judged on their own merits. If the AOC thought it was appropriate to give raises, there should be readily available facts to support the decision. Instead, Mr. Vickery chose to point his finger at trial courts as if he were a child on a playground attempting to explain away his by bad behavior by yelling, “Yeah, but he did it too”

  8. Judge Dredd – I don’t speak for SEIU or any other union or any trial court, but only for myself based on either my direct knowledge of a certain matter or on my opinion. Here are my thoughts on the issue you keep raising about wanting to point the finger at some trial courts who complied with their contractual obligations to their employees and this is based, in part, on both knowledge and opinion. Very, very few employees saw any sort of increase in their overall economic situation this year. The large majority of trial court employees earn less now than they did a year ago. But what is your point??? Those very few trial court employees who got an increase didn’t create the mess the judiciary is in! This is nothing more than a diversionary tactic. The real issues facing the judiciary are about governance and misplaced priorities. The fact that some AOC employees got raises really galls alot of people because of the perception, etc. I understand and respect that. But, here’s my opinion – who cares! I’m not interested in keeping a tally of who got what this year. I don’t care because there are WAY bigger fish to fry. I, along with a lot of people on this blog are interested in real and meaningful change and when that change happens (and it certainly will) arbitrary and ill-timed raises will be a thing of the past. Dredd – I appreciate your effort to engage in tactics that help the causes you believe in. I just don’t happen to believe those tactics are very successful.

    • justinianscode

      You’re right. There is a much bigger issue than keeping a tally of which staff member got what type of raise, since that is merely emblematic of the real problem. Even more emblematic is Mr. Vickrey’s response on the issue of top AOC staff raises.

      When Mr. Vickrey pointed to the trial courts in an attempt to justify top AOC management raises in comparison, he threw the trial court judges under the bus. That’s an interesting tactic for someone who heads an agency that supposedly serves the trial courts (for all Californians, that is).

      The big issue? Branch governance needs to be fixed.

    • To Obi, WBF, and WiseE:

      First off, Obi, I am certainly NOT someone who got an AOC raise, step-increase, or whatever they were called. You know nothing about me or my family’s finance situation, including what we’re going through right now to try to stay above water. So please don’t make assumptions about me.

      I am not in any way defending those in the AOC who got pay increases, nor am I taking some sort of AOC-sponsored tactic. Rather, like others here, I’m trying to take a big-picture, open-minded view of why the Branch is in the predicament it’s in. And while the AOC may be partly to blame, it seems like hypocrisy to me not to also acknowledge that the courts would be better off if they were not so beholden to the various unions, including court employees, sheriffs, and court reporters.

      There has been a lot of talk here that courts would have more money for operations if the AOC moved money from CCMS or the CCF. That is undeniably true. But whta is also undeniably true is that courts would have more money for operations if they weren’t forced to give COLAs in the middle of a fiscal crisis. Think about it — Executive Branch employees are being furloughed for 2-3 days per month, while some court employees are getting raises.

      Again, that’s not the sole problem. But it’s certainly A problem. Laying all of the blame at the feet of the AOC seems disingenuous to me, that’s all I’m saying. Also, if the AOC was eliminated right now and all AOC money redirected to the courts, how long do you think it would be before some courts (those who play tough with their unions) were crying foul because other courts (those who cave to their unions) were eating up too much of the resources? I think we all need to put on our honesty caps here and look at what it really best for the Branch and for all Californians.

      • Judge_Dredd, you are absolutely correct that we need to “look at what is really best for the Branch and for all Californians.”

        As for your comments concerning local court governance in comparison with decisions made by AOC leadership and the Judicial Council, at least the local judges know that they are directly accountable to the voters in their counties. One of the current shortcomings with Branch leadership is that there is no similar direct and effective accountability to the electorate.

        Tim Fall
        Judge, Yolo Superior Court

  9. That’s right, Justinian Code! As I tell my daughter “keep your eyes on the prize.” the prize: governance reforms that will lead to more accountability and oversight that will make it impossible or far less likely for the above symptoms referenced by Obi-Wan to reoccur.

  10. Special Prosecutor

    I gotta tell ya, you can call ’em symptoms but to a prosecutor they are evidence.

  11. Judge Fall, you nailed one of the operative problems right on the head. Local judges are accountable to the local electorate. So if local judges could make decisions about everything from courthouse construction to computers, their decisions would not have that level of insulation and distance now present between say Yolo County and San Francisco.

    With that administrative/management problem in mind, I believe the CCMS problem could be rapidly solved if counties were to experiment with modern technology supplied by someone like myself. It could be demonstrated in a jiffy that easy to use software that runs at dazzling speed could be developed very quickly and at minimal cost. Then counties could each make the election as to what to use. CCMS would essentially dissolve because no one would elect to use it and the budget problem associated with it would simply disappear.

    It is my understanding that, although the AOC has pursued CCMS as a statewide system, some counties have already turned thumbs down on it. Some are using local databases and declining to use CCMS. So ……

    Would Yolo County Superior Court be willing to take a look at what could be done? You know who I am so you can contact me easily. A demonstration could be done quickly and easily with a little cooperation from some of your judges and clerks. In order to avert a fiscal disaster in the courts, I would create the prototype software for free. Better that I donate some of my time than stand by and watch our court system implode financially.

    Give me a call.

  12. curious georgette

    Good morning, ComputerGeek.

    Would you please identify yourself?

    Thank you.

  13. Curious georgette, I probably will if you will. Where do you work? Job?

  14. Georgette, I will at least say I write software, I’m a lawyer, I handle criminal appeals, and Judge Fall knows who I am as does Judge Hamlin. I have spoken on the phone with a number of ACJ judges so they know who I am. Georgette, what can I do for you?

  15. curious georgette

    Nothing at the present time but thank you for offering. I’m in court administration.

  16. At a superior court, Georgette?