For the second time this year, the state appellate court in San Francisco has upheld the furloughs instituted under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of state employees paid by money outside of the general fund.
The 1st District Court of Appeal in a ruling released Friday overturned a lower court decision that would have potentially forced the state to pay millions of dollars in back pay, with interest, to thousands of state workers in the Service Employees International Union California covered by the suit.
The decision means just one similar appellate case remains undecided. If the state wins that case, it would significantly lower the chances of unions successfully appealing to the state Supreme Court to rule the furloughs at "special fund" departments were illegal.
In SEIU Local 1000 v. Brown, a panel of three judges again focused their decision on the landmark state Supreme Court decision in Professional Engineers in California Government v. Schwarzenegger. California's highest court said the two-day-a-month furloughs that began in 2008 were legal because the Legislature retroactively authorized them as part of their annual budgeting process. Professional Engineers did not weigh in on furloughs at departments that largely or entirely rely on money from federal or outside sources, which spurred the three separate lawsuits.
Friday's decision included one caveat. Five of the 63 state departments covered in the suit were not included the state budget approved by the Legislature in 2009. The judges said the union and the state must return to the lower court to debate the legality of furloughs at First 5 California, the Prison Industry Authority, the California Earthquake Authority, the California Housing Finance Agency and the Office of Administrative Hearings.
A different panel of judges at the appeals court overturned the decision in Union of American Physicians and Dentists v. Brown back in May.
The remaining case pits the California Attorneys, Administrative Law Judges and Hearing Officers in State Employment against the Brown administration. A hearing date has not been set.
Jon Ortiz laid out the wider picture about the final three cases in his April 14 column. Read it here.