San Diego Court Employees to Pursue Suit Against Superior Court - in Superior Court

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Following a December 3 ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California that the federal court has no jurisdiction to hear its case, the San Diego County Court Employees Association will proceed with a state suit against the San Diego County Superior Court, for failing to pay overtime and compensatory time off in violation of the court employees' contract, in the same Superior Court it's suing. The federal district court ruled that the Superior Court is a state entity and therefore immune from federal lawsuits brought by individuals, under the Constitution's Eleventh Amendment.

It would seem that the San Diego County Superior Court cannot try a case against itself.

    "This presents an interesting legal issue as to who can or will hear the case," said Gregory Petersen of Jackson DeMarco Tidus Petersen Peckenpaugh, lead counsel for the association and Chair of the law firm's Complex Litigation Practice Group. "It would seem that the San Diego County Superior Court cannot try a case against itself."

The state lawsuit will focus on the Superior Court's breach of its contract with its employees, Petersen said. The lawsuit will seek to address the Superior Court's failure to pay its employees for working overtime before and after their scheduled work hours and for working through meal periods, with its managers being aware of such practices.

"Our first option was to try to persuade the federal court that it does indeed have jurisdiction for a number of reasons," said Amy Shillingburg, President of the court employees' association. "A federal trial would have been preferable because it would have avoided the political overtones and venue problems of a state lawsuit."

"We are confident that, in whichever forum we finish, the court employees will have their day in court and be paid what is owed for their efforts," Petersen concluded.

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Roger Franks
Jackson DeMarco Tidus Petersen Peckenpaugh
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