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Tulare County Superior Court Holds that Compulsory Binding Interest Arbitration is Unconstitutional

Superior Court Judge Melinda Reed Refuses to Order the County to Arbitration to Resolve a Bargaining Impasse between the County and its Deputy Sheriffs Association.

In a case argued on Monday, October 2, 2006, the Tulare County Superior Court struck down SB 402 / 440 as unconstitutional, handing the County a complete trial court victory. Meyers Nave served as associate counsel on behalf of the County of Tulare.

The trial court’s ruling, issued the same day of the argument, is succinct. The Court rejected the DSA’s argument that SB 440 cured the Constitutional defects in SB 402. The Court stated as follows:

SB 440’s attempt to correct SB 402’s constitutional deficiencies fails. The amended code (CCP section 1299.7) provides that “the decision of the arbitration panel shall not be publicly disclosed, and shall not be binding, for a period of five days after service to the parties.” It requires that within that five days, unless the parties agree to extend the time, the employer may, by unanimous vote of all the members of the governing body, reject the decision of the arbitration panel. As amended, the code could allow just one supervisor to implement the arbitrator’s decision by not rejecting it. Thus, the power of the entire Board in this matter would be delegated to the arbitrator and one Board member. This is unconstitutional.

The DSA has already filed a notice of appeal. Thus, this case is on track to become the first case considering the constitutionality of SB 440 in the courts of appeal.

LEG Advisory: We have previously reported on the Statewide litigation regarding SB 402 / 440. There is a case currently pending in Tuolumne County, brought by the Tuolumne County Deputy Sheriff’s Association. The parties recently settled the bargaining dispute, however, and that case will be dismissed shortly.