Thursday, April 19, 2012

Los Angeles County Superior Court: Expect Delays

The Los Angeles County Superior Court ("LASC"), the largest unified trial court in the United States, has announced it will cut staff and close courtrooms. This is sure to exacerbate the situation at an already crowded local court system, and perhaps will also encourage attorneys and litigants to make heavier use of alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation and arbitration, or in some cases pressure them into settlements versus going to trial. The Secretary of State's staff cuts which took place several years ago are still being felt in slower processing times, and presumably staff cuts at LASC will have a similar slowing effect. LASC's press release follows:
The Los Angeles Superior Court today announces plans for the most significant reduction of services in its history. By June 30, 2012, the Court will reduce its staff by nearly 350 workers, close 56 courtrooms, reduce its use of court reporters and eliminate the Informal Juvenile Traffic Courts.

According to Presiding Judge Lee Smalley Edmon, “Staffing reductions due to budget cuts over the past 10 years have forced our court to reduce staffing by 24%, while case filings continue to increase. This has created incredible pressures on our court to keep up with our work. We cannot endure these pressures for much longer.”
In the current year, additional staffing reductions are required to deal with the fact that the state’s budget crisis has resulted in a reduction to the California judicial branch of $652 million. The Court has managed its share of these cuts by spending down year-end fund balances, freezing wages, furloughing court staff, and eliminating staff positions, achieving $70 million in ongoing savings as of last fiscal year.

“This year, the state cuts are forcing us to reduce our spending by an additional $30 million – on top of the $70 million in reductions we have already made,” notes Edmon. “There will be as many as 350 dedicated, skilled court workers who will no longer be serving the residents of Los Angeles County. When we lose those people, we will no longer be able to shield the core work of the court – the courtroom – from the budget crisis.”

The $30 million reduction plan, which will take effect by June 30, 2012, has four components:

First, the Court is closing 56 courtrooms, a move made necessary by the depth and breadth of the reductions.

The courtrooms being impacted include 24 civil, 24 criminal, 3 family, 1 probate, and 4 juvenile delinquency courts. The caseloads of those courtrooms are being distributed among the remaining courtrooms. Judicial officers whose courtrooms are impacted will be reassigned to fill vacancies, to share staff or to handle settlement conferences to resolve cases without trials.

Second, on May 15, 2012, the Los Angeles Superior Court will no longer provide court reporters for civil trials. In addition, after June 18, 2012, court reporters will be available for civil law-and-motion matters on a limited basis. (No changes are being made to the provision of court reporters in criminal, family, probate, delinquency or dependency matters.)

Third, the Court is again making significant reductions to its non-courtroom staff. Having made 329 layoffs and lost another 229 court staff through attrition over the past two years, the Court anticipates making more than 100 additional non-courtroom staff reductions by June 30, 2012. “Our judges and staff have shown incredible dedication and commitment in keeping the court running during these past two years. But these new reductions will not allow it to be business as usual. There will be longer lines at clerk’s windows across the county and slower responses to the public’s needs across the court,” said Edmon.

Fourth, the Court will eliminate its Informal Juvenile Traffic Court program (IJTC). IJTC is an innovative program in which minors who commit low-level offenses are held to account for their actions by the court and by their parents – but outside of the traditional delinquency system. “These courts have allowed us to address tens of thousands of offenses in a more appropriate forum than delinquency court,” said Assistant Presiding Judge David Wesley. “We are losing a crucial element of the juvenile justice system to lack of funding.”

“It saddens me to have to make these layoffs,” notes Presiding Judge Edmon. “These actions are affecting people who have made a commitment to public service, to justice. We have had incredible cooperation of all our staff and our labor representatives through the past few years of these trying economic times. We should be in a position to reward them, not to have to inflict further pain.”

“These extraordinary actions,” says Presiding Judge Edmon, “cut into the core work of the courts. With risks of more reductions on the horizon, we are already rationing justice. The Judicial Council must find fiscal relief for the trial courts – from any and all sources. The public cannot tolerate any further major service reductions.”

Notices to litigants and to attorneys regarding these changes are proceeding. Pursuant to statute and rule of court, relevant notices to attorneys and the public regarding the moving of case types, and changes to filing locations, can be found through the court’s website: go to, click on “News and Media”, then click on “Notices to Attorneys.” For relevant judicial orders, click on “Court Rules” and look under the “Special Notices” tab.

No cases are being dismissed because of these actions.
"Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser - in fees, expenses, and waste of time." - Abraham Lincoln

Saturday, April 14, 2012

California Employers Not Liable for Employees' Work During Meal and Rest Breaks

California employers are hailing a rare labor law victory in California courts. Brinker International, Inc., which operates chain restaurants such as Chili's and Maggiano's Little Italy, successfully defended a claim by employees relating to work performed during meal and rest breaks. The court ruled that employers are obliged to provide meal and rest breaks mandated by California law, but are not required to monitor empoyees to ensure they do not perform any work during these breaks. If employees do voluntarily work during their breaks, the employer is not liable to these employees for such work. Employers continue to be liable for monetary penalties if meal and rest breaks are not provided.

Working Through Lunch? Not the Boss' Problem, Court Rules, Los Angeles Times, April 12, 2012.

New NLRB Workplace Poster Requirement

Effective April 30, 2012, all employers must add one more workplace poster to their existing workplace postings: a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) poster regarding employees' rights to organize and bargain collectively.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

California Commission-Based Employees Must Be Under Written Contract By January 1, 2013

California employers of employees whose compensation includes commissions should be aware that, per Labor Code Section 2751, they need to enter into written agreement with such employees stating how commissions will be computed and paid.

See also New 2012 California Employment Laws