A resolution supporting naming a complex of judicial buildings at San Francisco's Civic Center Plaza after the retiring justice crumbled in the final hours of the legislative session, as a union that represents court workers objected to the change.
Under Senate Concurrent Resolution 126,the complex of court buildings that includes Earl Warren Building and the Hiram W. Johnson State Office Building would have been designated Ronald M. George Justice Center "in deep and lasting honor to the extraordinary and exemplary service" of the longtime jurist. The Senate voted 28-0 to approved the resolution, authored by Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, last week.
But the measure died in the Assembly on Tuesday night after the California State Council of the Service Employees International Union stepped in to oppose the name change.
As the resolution was awaiting approval by the Assembly Rules Committee, the union penned a letter to Rules Chairwoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, saying that it would be improper for lawmakers to bestow the judge with a namesake complex while the Legislature is a party in a lawsuit challenging Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's line-item veto cuts, which the state Supreme Court has agreed to review.
"While Chief Justice George is a well-regarded jurist, it is imprudent to be naming large civic centers after him when there is a current case affecting the Legislature before him," SEIU government relations advocate Michelle A. Castro wrote in the letter, which you can read here.
SEIU members who work in health care services that suffered deep budget cuts could be affected by the outcome of that case. The union's letter also expresses concerns that the new name would "overshadow the accomplishments of Earl Warren and Hiram Johnson."
And of course the union's members who work in the court system aren't exactly big fans of some of George's administrative actions. As chief justice he heads the California Judicial Council, which decided to close state courthouses one day a month, a move that amounts to a furlough for employees.
The measure failed to make it to a floor vote when just two members of the Assembly Rules Committee -- Skinner and Assemblyman Anthony Adams, R-Hesperia, voted to move the resolution out of committee for a floor vote. The nine remaining committee members, both Democrats and Republicans, opposed the motion or didn't vote.
The Senate seemed determined to give George the honor, or at least say that's what they wanted to do. Minutes after the clock struck midnight, the Senate approved by voice vote another resolution introduced that night essentially reiterating its wishes to add George's name to the complex.
UPDATE 5:20 p.m.: An aide to Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg wrote in an e-mail that the complex could still be named after George -- that decision would likely be left up to the State Department of General Services and the Judicial Council.
PHOTO CREDIT: California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald George speaks to members of the media in his office in San Francisco, Wednesday, July 14, 2010. George announced that he is stepping down. The state's top jurist said he won't seek reelection in November. His last day in office will be Jan. 2. (AP Photo/ Jeff Chiu)