With all of the historic events of the last two weeks -- action on the state budget, the SEIU labor deal and the California Supreme Court decision on furloughs -- we almost forgot about another high-profile issue that's not yet resolved: state worker minimum-wage litigation.
Sacramento Superior Court Judge Patrick Marlette has scheduled Endsley v. Chiang for oral argument on Jan. 7. If Marlette's past decisions on furloughs and minimum wage are a guide, he'll issue a tentative decision ahead of the January hearing and then, unless an argument changes his mind, he'll quickly issue a final decision.
Between now and then, there's a Nov. 29 "evidentiary proceeding" during which witnesses will testify, possibly for an entire week. Each side will then submit more documents to Marlette, which he'll consider in the days leading up to oral arguments.
The case continues the 2-year-old court feud over Controller John Chiang's refusal to issue paychecks with wages withheld to the federal minimum allowed a budget impasse.
Schwarzenegger, who was looking for negotiating leverage over legislative Democrats and employee unions, cited a 2003 state Supreme Court decision that says state employee pay must be temporarily reduced during budget delays. Chiang said withholding pay and restoring it along with back wages risked exposing the state to big-time lawsuits, reason enough for him to refuse the governor's pay order.
Besides, Chiang said, the state's computers couldn't handle the job.
Chiang has lost the first argument. Now the legal tussle has shifted to whether complying with the law is impossible, given the state's payroll processing rules and its creaking computer system.
Click here to view the court order that lays out the calendar of upcoming events in Endsley v. Chiang.
PHOTO: Judge Patrick Marlette makes a point during a furlough lawsuit hearing in 2009. / Sacramento Bee file, Jan. 29, 2009, Brian Baer.