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Judge orders the governor to halt employee furloughs

December 31, 2009 |  6:14 pm

A Superior Court judge today ordered Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to halt thrice-monthly furloughs for tens of thousands of state workers, saying the administration overstepped its authority in approving the unpaid days off.

A spokesman for Schwarzenegger said the governor would appeal the decision of Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch in favor of three state employee unions, including the Service Employees International Union Local 1000. The unions had filed suit after the governor began the furloughs in February in response to a multibillion-dollar budget shortfall.

The judge ruled that the governor’s use of the state Emergency Services Act to furlough state workers because the state did not have a budget at the time had limits.

“...The emergency necessitating them was the failure of the Legislature to pass the budgets, though the reach of the orders extended long after those budgets were subsequently passed and signed into law," the judge wrote.

Roesch also ruled that furloughing state employees who are paid from special funds illegally interferes with the operation of specially funded agencies.

He said the governor’s use of furloughs was an “abuse of discretion” and that he “violated a mandatory duty to take into account the agencies varying needs before reducing workplace hours.”

The governor plans to appeal Roesch’s decision and noted that the order blocking the furloughs would be stayed until the appeal is ruled on, said Aaron McLear, a spokesman for Schwarzenegger.

“Ultimately this will be decided by the state Supreme Court,” McLear said. “The governor absolutely has the authority to issue furloughs and we feel the state Supreme Court will rule in our favor.”

The lawsuit also was filed by CASE (California Attorneys, Administrative Law Judges, and Hearing Officers in State Employment) and the Union of American Physicians and Dentists.

--Patrick McGreevy

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