Friday, October 07, 2011

My Take On Not Cutting Public Sector Jobs

With all this talk about making government and public sector jobs go away to cut the deficit (whether it be state or federal), along with the equally absurd notion that the private sector either will, or can, take these jobs, I have to weigh in here from my perspective with my job. In the legal field, the court system and all the employees are what would be considered government or public sector oriented. Over the years, the lack of funds for judges, clerks, secretaries, etc. in Los Angeles, forced the court system last year and part of this year, to shut down one day a month. No work, but no pay either. So, that just all alone created a backlog. Then having to lay off judges, forced the smaller pool of judges to hear a larger pool of cases, thus increasing their caseload, thus increasing the wait time for lawyers on even simple matters such as Case Management Conferences (which were quick and easy, and are still quick and easy, except when you close 20 courtrooms in the county, you have to wait two hours before you get to your ten minute Case Management Conference). Letting go of the clerks has increased the wait time for those Judgments lawyers desperately need for their clients, for without the judgments, you can't collect on what you won. Same with the wait time for Writs, Abstracts, defaults, etc. Although, in some cases, even if it takes the default clerk a week to get to your particular request for the default, it will still be "stamped" defaulted the day it was submitted. Still ... what used to be a one day turn around, became two to four weeks, and then four to six weeks! Laying of sheriffs, that delays the levy process, or the lock out process if you've just won your unlawful detainer action to evict the non-paying tenant at your property. I literally had to beg a clerk in San Bernardino, who informed me they can only hand out five eviction notices to three sheriffs one day a week! For all of SAN FUCKING BERNARDINO COUNTY! Since it was the holidays, and although I hate to kick someone out of their house during the holidays, in this particular case the defendant had beat us twice in court (never let your boss tell you he's going to serve the documents -- always insist on using a licensed process server as I have consistently reminded him). Finally, when on the third trial we actually win since the occupants had been by that time literally staying in the apartment for free for close to six months, I am told that I have to wait two more weeks until after Christmas because she has booked all of her sheriffs for the maximum five lock outs! Fortunately, she sort of understood that the owners were going to lose another two weeks of rent, so she consulted with her boss and got one fucking extra day in during that two week dry spell, and my lock out was one of them.

Adding to the misery is the increase in the number of people representing themselves because they simply cannot afford a lawyer, which has resulted in most courts having a self help area where the judge sends them to assist with obtaining and filling out the proper documents. The lines for the self help filings are longer than the ex parte lines on any given day! Jury trials -- when was the last time there was a raise for a juror, especially if you are sitting for a two to four week trial? My girlfriend was summoned to a jury pool, and it turned out to be the one for the Michael Jackson doctor case -- she was recused, but she told me about the 30 page questionnaire she had to fill out, which I thought was rather odd, but then that would be standard for any high profile case.

My point is, even though I personally think some of these clerks, judges, secretaries, etc. are overpaid and are too stupid to do the job, and remember I said SOME (don't get me started on the court in Compton, I actually had the head clerk there call me and ask me to apologize for something I put on a "buck slip" [that's the cover sheet that is attached to the documents the attorney service picks up every day to file in the various courthouses] and I mentioned that this filing in Compton would be difficult because the clerks there don't know their brains from their asses!) I asked her if my default was going to be entered any sooner if I apologized and she said no, so I just hung up on her! But, a lot of the clerks are very helpful.

The delays also affect cases negatively. I have a case that my office for plaintiff and the other office for defendants are so acrimonious toward each other that we requested and was granted what is called a discovery referee, so the court doesn't have to actually hear every single motion relating to discovery issues. Yet, I only this week got the signed Order on the recommendation of the referee that he submitted in JUNE! Four fucking months! All that does is delay trials, cost our clients needles wait time (and sometimes more money, but not always). I mean, it's only a $40 fee to hear a motion to compel, and maybe a few hours to write it up (we don't charge the high fees a lot of lawyers do, we stay between the $250 and $350 per hour range), and generally 15 minutes to argue the thing. The discovery referee charges a gazillion dollars to both sides to do basically the same thing, and instead of getting a ruling from the bench on the day of the motion, with the referee, I end up waiting four months for an order that allowed me to FINALLY get documents from some banks that the defendants didn't want us to see!

The problem with the backwards logic of cutting back on public sector jobs is that the growth in population mandates growth in the public sector! More students need more teachers, not less. More litigants need more judges and the judiciary, not less. More people means we need more cops. More people means that we need more firemen. More people means that those services that are generally offered from the public sector must increase, not decrease. It seems logical to me, and I have experienced it first hand waiting in court half a day for a 20 minute hearing. I really hate to bill a client for something like that.

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