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Judges declare war on unions, civil service and jurisdictional authority
by David Farside
Nov 15, 2010 | 971 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
By Woodrow
By Woodrow
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Beginning this week, the Sparks Municipal Court will exercise what it calls its “inherent right” to administer its own affairs. The first thing on its agenda is to notify its employees, who are union members of the operating engineers, the court is not subject to collective bargaining agreements and is not obligated to recognize unions as  bargaining agents for its employees. The court claims it is not a government employer, and therefore not subject to any collective bargaining agreements negotiated and agreed upon by the city of Sparks. As an example: Judges have withheld cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) from the marshals of the court who are entitled to the increase under an agreement with the city of Sparks. I wonder if the two judges received their COLA?

Denying collective bargaining in the workplace is usually the first step leading to unfair labor practices, diminished job benefits, illegal firing of personnel, nepotism, favoritism and discrimination. However, we know that will never happen inside the hallowed walls of justice in Sparks.

If union busting isn’t bad enough, next on the court’s agenda is to notify its employees that the court will not be responsible for previous terms and conditions related to hiring, firing and personnel issues, such as reprimand and salary. The employees will no longer be subject to the authority and protection of the civil service commission’s ethics mandated in the Sparks city charter, which means employees have no recourse for grievances and essentially work at the whim of judges and court administrators.

In 1883, the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act was passed establishing the federal Civil Service Commission. It effectively replaced the spoils system rampant in the federal government’s workplace with the merit system based on job skills and qualifications. Also, it reduced protectionism and cronyism in federal hiring policies. It became even more effectual with Theodore Roosevelt as its chairman for seven years before he was elected president.

In 1978 the responsibilities of the Civil Service Commission were distributed to three different federal agencies dealing with discrimination, equal opportunities and merit pay in the workplace. States and local communities still maintain civil service commissions to protect the rights of their employees and ensure the ethics of their supervisors.

Unlike other departments in Sparks, the municipal court will no longer submit an itemized budget to City Council. Instead, it will provide a total dollar figure for appropriation by the Council and allocate the revenue as it sees fit without the scrutiny of City Council or the taxpayers of Sparks.

So, what exactly is the court’s “inherent right of authority?” And, why doesn’t it consider itself a government employer?

The Nevada Supreme Court declared all state municipal courts were part of the Nevada State Judicial System in 1994. But in 1996, Judge Deborah Agosti ruled that because they are part of the state’s judicial system, so they are not a local government employer and are not bound in any way to collective bargaining agreements established under Nevada law. And, that court judges have “inherent powers” to administer their affairs independent from the control of the executive branch of local government, collective bargaining agents or civil service protection.

In 2000, the Nevada Supreme Court overturned Agosti’s ruling, saying municipal courts are a part of a municipality, therefore a government employer and also a part of the judicial branch of government. The court noted the municipal courts can’t do whatever they want to do under the umbrella of their “inherent powers.”

Regarding inherent authority: Records show that in 2009, Supreme Court Justice James Hardesty said inherent authority should only be implemented when constitutional functions are at risk and existing methods of resolve fail.

It appears the municipal court is part of Sparks government and qualifies as a government employer. If so, the court does not have the “inherent right” to break union contracts, eliminate employee civil service protection or establish its own sovereignty.

In their attempt to secede from the administrative and legislative oversight of the City Council, minimizing their own accountability to the civil service commission and citizens of Sparks, the judges may be breaking the law themselves in their presumed failed attempt to broaden their power under the guise of inherent right.

Ironically, the only arguable risk to the constitutional functions governing the city of Sparks is the municipal court judges’ declaration of war against unions, civil service employees and jurisdictional authority.

David Farside is a Sparks resident and political activist. The polemics of his articles can be discussed at farsidian2001@yahoo.com. His Web site is www.thefarsidechronicles.com.
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