Wednesday, September 17, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

County court employees rally against cuts, furloughs

court employee protest 7_23_14

Solano County Superior Court workers protest in front of the court, in downtown Fairfield, Wednesday. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)

By
From page A3 | July 24, 2014 |

FAIRFIELD — Dozens of unhappy court clerks and other Solano County court employees gathered for a noontime rally Wednesday within earshot of the nearly refurbished $26.9 million courthouse.

The court staff had their wages frozen since 2008 and the judges and court management recently ordered employees to take more unpaid furlough days in the upcoming months. Together with claims of increased workplace injuries and unpaid overtime, the issues have helped galvanize their union with their current labor contract set to expire at year’s end.

“The court is deeply disappointed that additional reductions are necessary,” said the court’s executive officer Brian K. Taylor in an email. “Over the past five years, we have seen a 22 percent reduction in staff, we have been required to limit operation hours of the clerk’s offices from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., we have been required to furlough employees for 12 days for two years. This year, in order to balance the budget, we are required to implement six furlough days, lay off two employees, eliminate two positions and close the civil and family law clerk’s offices in Vallejo.”

Some court clerks, asking not to be identified over concern of possible retaliation, question why cuts are not being made from other parts of the Solano court’s budget. They question why Taylor and his top four administrators still receive auto allowances totaling more than $32,000 and more than $10,000 to pay for their cellphones and discretionary business-related expenses.

One of the speakers at the rally on the courthouse steps was legal clerk John Gales.

“The court administration has all its budget charts and mathematical formulas to hide behind and make the cuts seem inevitable and beyond their control,” Gales said. “But the money is there to keep us all working and providing legal services to the public if that were the priority. It’s not a matter of arithmetic – it’s a matter of will.”

Gales, mindful that the judges and administrators are responding to Sacramento budget edicts, invited Gov. Jerry Brown to come see the long lines at the courthouse.

The nearly 220 court staff, represented by Service Employees International Union Local 1021, contend there is enough wiggle room in the Solano court’s budget to avoid the furloughs and provide residents with more than just minimum access to justice. They expect negotiations over their upcoming contract to get underway in September or October.

Reach Jess Sullivan at 427-6919 or jsullivan@dailyrepublic.net. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jsullivandr.

Jess Sullivan

Jess has covered the criminal justice system in Solano County for several years. He was an embedded reporter in Iraq in 2003.
LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 14 comments

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  • ThemisJuly 24, 2014 - 7:37 am

    Most of the court staff in Solano County work very hard and have consistently had to endure serious hardships during the recession's budget cuts which are crippling our courts. I stood in line for half an hour in the family law court clerks office to file while the civil and criminal clerks windows were completely empty with staff just sitting there one eating snacks at her desk instead of working. The evident mismanagement of the courts human resources can be observed every day at the family,law court clerks windows. Is this because most filers in family law are self represented and somehow that devision of the court is less important? Shift these human resources to where the demand is, duh! The family law clerks are always SWAMPED and there are not enough clerks' windows. Bad, bad management.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Slaytanic213July 24, 2014 - 7:51 am

    The Criminal Clerks are just as busy as civil and family. You are correct about the majority of litigants in civil and family are self-represented which does result in longer lines. Most criminal defendants are represented and/or in custody so they can't come to the window. Doesn't mean the criminal clerks are any less busy. Let's not lose sight of the real issue here. With a top-heavy out of control Executive Staff, the fact that the Presiding Judge spot rotates every two years, resulting in no consistent leadership, leaves not only the staff that work with the public and are in the trenches day in and day out, but it leaves the citizens of this County without free access to Justice. Especially hurt will be the citizens of Vallejo. Just saying.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Slaytanic213July 24, 2014 - 7:54 am

    Ugh...coffee hasn't kicked in yet. It leaves the court staff injured physically and lowers the moral. Court staff has zero moral at this point and they are less likely to go above and beyond to help any lititgant in any area of the law. They are severely over worked and under paid.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CD BrooksJuly 24, 2014 - 8:06 am

    All his information at city and county level justifies my suggestion that extortion is at work here. Look at the bad guy records and what they're getting away with. You all see what's going on while driving around the city. Every law we have is being obliterated and all we hear about is a worthless crime commission and lack of resources. The blatant hypocrisy is off the hook and it just keeps getting worse. STOP supporting people that do not belong here. That provides more resources for those of us that actually pay for it.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Anonymous Local LawyerJuly 24, 2014 - 11:18 am

    Boo Hoo. These people are overpaid as it is, and most are plain lazy and rude on top of it. Typical govt employees. Most wouldn't last a week at a private employer where customer service actually matters. The courts need to replace most of them with technology to increase efficiency. FAX / ELECTRONIC FILING PLEASE. It makes NO sense in 2014 there is not fax or electronic filing available. Alameda is a good example of where it works. You can fax file there for $1 a page. And that more than pays for the clerks that process the filings. I echo the previous comment there should be one unified clerk's office where all the clerks can file family, civil, and criminal. That's efficiency. It makes no sense for the probate clerks to be sitting there picking their noses daydreaming while the family law clerk's line wraps around the damn building. But all the courts care about is getting more tax payers money -- not using what they already get efficiently. Typical government.

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  • Jane DoeJuly 24, 2014 - 11:36 am

    Actually it would be local attorneys that are over paid. I have seen these clerks in action. They are courteous and professional. Perhaps if the DA's office quit letting defendants and their families sit in halls with juries resulting in two and now maybe Three trials leaving innocent children hanging in the balance we could save tax dollars. The incompetence and lies of law enforcement and criminals is costing tax payers a heck of a lot of money. victims don't come forward enough as it is and that has NOTHING to do with clerks and everything to do with the DA, public defender and tolerance of Judges. They want to make cost saving cuts I agree with starting at the top. Reporters want to see tax dollars wasted check the Jason Claude Edwards case an unsentenced yet convicted child molestor awaiting a response to a 3rd trial while innocent children are left in limbo.

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  • Anonymous Local LawyerJuly 24, 2014 - 10:20 pm

    Lady, the difference is the tax payers don't pay me. I'm not a government attorney. People choose to give me their money because they demand what I'm supplying. It's called the free market. I know it's hard for government workers to understand the idea of a free market and supply and demand dictating wages instead of a bureaucrat. But that is how is works.

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  • Jean SmithJuly 24, 2014 - 9:11 pm

    To the Anonymous Lawyer, Seriously? I'm sure your comments are a reflection of your character, and they way you handle your cases. I have needed the assistance of the County Clerks Office and I have always been treated with respect and they have been very helpful. You need to take a good look at your reflection before you make comments about others.

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  • GetBackToWorkJuly 24, 2014 - 2:48 pm

    Fire them all!. Hire people who will work for cheaper and won't make any noise!. Isn't that the American way?!?..My little experience with the clerks office is just like being at the DMV!. Ungrateful sad souls strapped to a desk!.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Joe PsocJuly 24, 2014 - 5:28 pm

    Some court clerks... "question why Taylor and his top four administrators still receive auto allowances totaling more than $32,000 and more than $10,000 to pay for their cellphones and discretionary business-related expenses." Good freeking grief. They have perfectly good jobs and a paycheck which would overfeed a lunch-special crowd at the Discount Buffet. And they can't afford to pay for their own d--n car? Or a phone? If they can't budget their overgenerous paycheck better than they should be fired. And maybe we can find some administrators who can do the job for half the cost and without all the expensive perks.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Former EmployeeJuly 24, 2014 - 6:28 pm

    Listen to all you dummies on here talking sh*t about the employees at the clerks office like you really know what you're talking about. You're a JOKE. You know what else is a joke? A couple of those "executives" on the third floor who don't do a damn thing but flip their hair back and forth, and walk around in ugly Birkenstocks. Those clerks in the civil, family law, traffic and criminal departments work their TAILS off every single day trying to meet the impossible tasks of providing efficient and accurate customer service in a timely manner, not only to those in person but those over email correspondence as well as phones that NEVER stop ringing, entering copious amounts of data into the system, pulling and replacing their own files, among tens of other things, all while having to deal with the demands of judges, incompetent and micro-managing supervisors, and you people on here want to cry because they don't roll out the red carpet and sing you a song when you come to the window? Get over yourself! How bout you stop speeding, committing crime, pick a better baby daddy/mama, and you wouldn't have to deal with the Courts in the FIRST place! And to the "anonymous local attorney", some of you attorneys are part of the problem, having nerve to comment on here, while people like you treat these clerks like crap thinking you're hot stuff because you have a degree. Please. Do them a favor and go back to sipping your soy latte at Starbucks on the corner. While I am more than willing to acknowledge that there are some extremely outstanding, impressive and very kind judges, attorneys, and supervisors there, the bottom line is that these clerks put up with the most, get paid the least, get treated the worst, and it's about damn time they stood up for themselves. P.S.--If my words make you feel uncomfortable, I'm probably talking to you.

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  • Luna TheodoreJuly 24, 2014 - 7:25 pm

    People think that since it's paperwork, that it's an easy job. Hard work, responsibility, and dedication is the keystone to make the courts running. Clerks at the window, whether it is family law, traffic, criminal, civil or small claims work their b__tts off! to make the courts look good. They are in the range of fire everyday with irate customers, impatient lawyers, and rude runners. The reason that you see a clerk eat close to their window is that they rush everyday just to make sure that things are in order for the demanding clientele who most of the time do not have their paperwork together. Shame...shame that you think that we are overpaid. We have families to feed, gas our cars, pay our mortgages, and send our kids to school. So where is the fairness in all of these? I rest my case.

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  • truth'nJuly 24, 2014 - 10:20 pm

    All these people complaining about their jobs. You are there to work. Work or Quit. Pick One.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CricketJuly 25, 2014 - 10:43 am

    Really? Work or quit? These clerks and court employees want to work and have been working to serve the public for much less than many people make in the private sector for several years without raises or recognition and you are just hearing from them now. It's only the upper management who have fat salaries and benefits.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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