State judicial council prepares to give raises

October 29, 2010 12:19:57 AM PDT
California is struggling financially, but the state's judicial council which sets policy for courts statewide doesn't seem to be sharing in the pain. ABC7 News has learned it is ready to give pay increases to hundreds of its workers at the same time other state court employees face furloughs and serious cutbacks.

The pay increases would go to most of the judicial council's staff called the AOC, short for the Administrative Office of the Courts. It is a huge bureaucracy that's grown to more than 800 workers.

The recommendation is from a council oversight committee chaired by chief justice nominee Tani Cantil-Sakauye. It calls for a 3.5 percent pay increase for an estimated 80 percent of AOC workers.

This comes as employees of the state's 58 local county courts have suffered through layoffs and furloughs from court closures.

"We're angry...we're just angry," says Ebra Pearson.

Pearson is an Alameda County court worker and a union leader.

"How can they give anybody a raise when the courts are still in a deficit position?" asks Pearson.

Pearson wants the $1 million which would be spent on the pay hikes to go to local courts which have been hit hard by the state budget crisis.

This is how Miriam Krinsky, a member of the oversight committee, justifies their proposal.

"Well, I think the first thing that is important to recognize is this is not a pay raise," says Krinsky.

If not, what is it?

"I would look at it as a partial restoration of salary reductions that employees have been subjected to," says Krinsky.

Krinsky says the judicial council can now afford to compensate its employees who have been denied pay increases and cost of living hikes.

"It comes from tightening measures that the court is engaged in that has enabled the court now to have resources available," says Krinsky.

Kern County Superior Court Judge David Lampe is with the Alliance of California Judges and says it is a slap in the face of local district court workers.

"Not only is there not enough money to give them raises in these current negotiations, but they're effectively going to have to take pay cuts through the furlough process," says Lampe.

The proposed pay hike will come up on Friday at a meeting of the judicial council, but the chief justice, who chairs the council, is ultimately the one who makes the decision.

The judicial council already has been under fire for a court computer project estimated to cost more than $1 billion -- one that has had lots of bugs and delays.


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