Los Angeles County civil and criminal courts may face a dramatic slowdown Monday if a proposed sickout by prosecutors, public defenders, court reporters and clerks is widely observed, the district attorney's office said Saturday.
The job action, proposed last week by disgruntled employees in Superior and Municipal courts, "is a definite possibility, but we just don't know what to expect," said Al Albergate, a spokesman for the district attorney's office.
He said any individuals with court appearances set for Monday should expect possible delays or postponements but should show up on time "unless they hear otherwise."
Albergate said the biggest concern is possible dismissals of criminal cases that are nearing their trial deadlines, but he said those courts will be staffed under a contingency plan "and no criminals will be allowed to go free."
The absence of court reporters could cause some of the most vexing problems because there are no supervisory personnel who can take over those jobs, county officials said.
However, Albergate said similar job actions in the past "have not seriously disrupted court business."
Prosecutors and public defenders, who earn about $2,800 to $6,300 a month, last week expressed unhappiness with the county's two-year offer of a 6% to 6 1/2% pay raise coupled with cuts in sick leave and vacation time.
Courtroom clerks and reporters, who earn about $2,300 to $4,000 a month, were offered a similar package during negotiations that have dragged on for six months.
Frustrated by the lack of movement, the employee groups recently created the Los Angeles County Court Coalition in order to negotiate with management. The sickout was proposed during a heated coalition meeting last Thursday.
County officials said employees who do not report to work Monday may lose a day's pay or could face other sanctions.
Last week, the Superior Court's executive officer, Frank Zolin, asked judges to order their staffs to report to work Monday under threat of contempt of court.
"We have sent notice to all employees that such actions are not sanctioned, and their absence will be deemed unauthorized," Zolin wrote in a letter to judges.
The slowdown was not expected to affect Municipal Court clerks and reporters in suburban cities because they are not generally affiliated with the unions, county officials said.