Carona Violates Court Order by Skipping Deposition; Deputies Will Compel Testimony and Seek Sanctions Unless Sworn Testimony is Forthcoming

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Orange County Sheriff-Coroner Michael Carona failed to appear for a court-ordered deposition on Jan. 8 in a civil suit brought by deputies seeking unpaid overtime, and attorneys for the deputies are working with representatives of the county to secure his testimony.

As the head of the department, the buck stops with him and his testimony is critical.

    Failing an expedited informal resolution with the county's lawyers, the deputies will ask the federal court to compel Carona's testimony and impose sanctions against him for his violation of the court order.

Carona failed to appear at the deposition despite the ruling by U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Nakazato in October 2007 that denied a protective order sought by the county to prevent Carona's deposition from going forward at all. Judge Nakazato ruled that the plaintiffs are "entitled to discover the nature and scope of (Sheriff Carona's) information, and to determine the extent to which the Sheriff actually approved or disapproved of the underlying overtime policy on behalf of his agency." Judge Nakazato thus ordered that Carona's deposition proceed, and the Jan. 8 date was agreed upon by all parties, including Carona.

"We want to ask him about the department's policies and practices regarding payment of overtime," said Gregory G. Petersen, chair of Jackson DeMarco Tidus Petersen Peckenpaugh's complex litigation department and counsel for the deputies. "As the head of the department, the buck stops with him and his testimony is critical."

Carona's failure to appear comes on the heels of a key preliminary victory for the deputies. Late last month, U.S. District Court Judge Cormac Carney broadened the scope of the deputies' lawsuit, approving for collective action certification the claim that the County has systematically failed to pay deputies for working through lunch breaks and other meal periods. That ruling included the granting of a second two-month "opt-in" period for current and former deputies to join the suit. Currently, about 650 deputies have joined the lawsuit, alleging that the department knowingly failed to pay overtime for work-related activities before and after shifts. The second opt-in period will begin shortly. Petersen expects many more deputies will have the opportunity to join the suit.

"Our investigation indicates that many deputies consider the meal period issue to be central to their claims," Petersen noted. "We expect Judge Carney's ruling to substantially broaden the class size in this action."

Jackson DeMarco Tidus Petersen Peckenpaugh, headquartered in Irvine with a second office in Westlake Village, is recognized as a preeminent California full service law firm, providing practical legal advice and representation in business and corporate law, employment law, litigation, real estate, common interest subdivision, land use and environmental regulation, construction law, immigration, and intellectual property. JDTPP represents business and corporate clients in key California industries, including software and technology; real estate development; life sciences; oil and energy; manufacturing; transportation and distribution; finance; agriculture; fitness; and hospitality; as well as public employee associations and their members, and government entities. More information is at http://www.jdtplaw.com.

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