The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

May 17, 2011
Appeals court reverses 'special fund' furlough decision

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 100609 gavel.jpgState workers paid with federal money or other sources outside of the general fund were legally furloughed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, according to a court ruling issued late Monday.

The decision published by San Francisco's 1st District Court of Appeal reverses a lower court decision that parsed the legality of furloughs by the source of an employee's pay and deals a blow to a key union argument against the policy.

Union of American Physicians and Dentists v. Brown (formerly UAPD v. Schwarzenegger) was one of three parallel cases that successfully argued in trial court in 2009 that the furlough policy was illegal. Alameda Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch reasoned that Schwarzenegger's blanket furloughs failed to take into account the "varying needs of the different state agencies" as required by state law and that closing special fund departments three days per month illegally interfered with their "respective missions."

The appellate court rejected both arguments and noted that an October furlough decision by the California Supreme Court had ruled that the Legislature implicitly authorized furloughs regardless of funding source with budget legislation it passed after the policy launched. "It is not our place to question our Supreme Court's rulings on this point," the appellate court wrote.

The union also challenged the legality of Schwarzenegger's July 1, 2009, order to add a third monthly furlough day, something that the state Supreme Court didn't address.

But the appellate court reasoned that the high court's October ruling set a precedent that applied to the additional furlough day order, since a bill that was passed on July 28, 2009, included the same language as the first furlough budget bill passed in February 2009.

We've left a message with UAPD's attorney, Adam Zapala, to ask whether the union will ask the state Supreme Court to take up the matter. We'll update this post when we hear back.

Appeals of Roesch's furlough rulings in favor of SEIU Local 1000 and California Attorneys, Administrative Law Judges and Hearing Officers in State Employment are with other divisions of the 1st District Court.

Here's the unanimous 18-page decision by Justices Barbara Jones, Mark Simons and Henry Needham.
First District Court of Appeal ruling: UAPD v Brown Special

IMAGE: www.yolocourts.ca.gov

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About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at jortiz@sacbee.com.

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