Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the chief justice of California's Supreme Court talked about the judicial branch's budget on the same day that an administration lawyer hand-delivered a controversial letter that informally asked the court to review a furlough case that the governor had twice lost.
There's no connection between those May 11 events, the Schwarzenegger administration says, or the May budget revision three days later that added $19 million in new fee revenue for the trial security, or the Supreme Court's unanimous decision on Thursday to review CASE v. Schwarzenegger as the governor had hoped.
"The budget meeting had nothing to do with the furlough lawsuit," said Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear. "The governor and the chief justice didn't discuss the (lawsuit) letter ... We never talk about cases that may come before the courts."
The State Worker made several calls to the state Supreme Court in San Francisco this afternoon, but couldn't reach an authorized spokesperson.
Patrick Whalen, the lead furlough litigator for CASE, which represents about 3,800 state legal professionals, said he was unaware of the May 11 meeting between Schwarzenegger and George.
"We're confident in the judiciary's ability to decide this case fairly," Whalen said.
Thursday's state Supreme Court order involves a San Francisco trial court decision, subsequently upheld on appeal, that the governor's furlough of 500 legal staff at State Compensation Insurance Fund violated a law that protects its employees from "staff cutbacks."
Service Employees International Union Local 1000 won a similar lawsuit that returned the remaining 7,500 State Fund employees to full hours and pay and restored their lost wages plus 7 percent. The governor has appealed.
Local 1000 spokesman Jim Zamora declined to comment on last week's meeting between Schwarzenegger and George.
The two government leaders have met seven times since early 2008, McLear said. Many if not all of the meetings involved the judicial branch's budget and there was always plenty of support staff in the room.
"These aren't secret talks," McLear said, calling last week's meeting "routine."
Three days after Schwarzenegger and George met, the governor released his annual May budget revision, which included an increase of $91 million from the state's general fund for the judicial branch.
That money, however, replaced anticipated funding the courts lost when lawmakers didn't sign off on Schwarzenegger's plan to fund the courts with traffic speeding fines using cameras to catch more violators.
The May budget revision also included a new fee to raise $19 million for court security.
Hat Tip: The Recorder, which reported the meeting in this story, and to blog user H for making us aware of it.