Court Clerks Strike Delays Trials, Other Services in Santa Clara County - NBC Bay Area
South Bay

South Bay

The latest news from around the South Bay

Court Clerks Strike Delays Trials, Other Services in Santa Clara County

As court officials scramble, long-awaited Sierra LaMar murder trial is among cases postponed during walkout

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    The picket line of striking Superior Court workers Wednesday made for a hectic day at Santa Clara County's Hall of Justice in San Jose as well as other South Bay court facilities, and the walkout got some high-profile support. Robert Handa reports. (Published Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016)

    The picket line of striking Superior Court workers Wednesday made for a hectic day at Santa Clara County's Hall of Justice in San Jose as well as other South Bay court facilities, and the walkout got some high-profile support.

    The Superior Court Professional Employees Association said 310 of its 380 members signed up for the picket line Wednesday, and very few crossed.

    As the court scrambled to accommodate the day's business, several attorneys said most courtrooms were locked, delaying trials, hearings and other court services.

    "They're operating on a skeleton crew, trying to funnel multiple departments into one courtroom," said Steven Clark, a legal analyst. "I even saw one Superior Court judge sitting as a court clerk."

    One notable postponement was the trial of Antolin Garcia Torrres, who is charged with the murder of Morgan Hill teen Sierra LaMar.

    After months of delays the trial finally started Monday, and now the clerks strike has delayed key motion hearings until next week.

    Sierra's father was dejected.

    "Yeah, it's been an emotional rollercoaster," Steve LaMar said Wednesday. "Monday went good and yesterday. We were feeling good, and then this comes today. Looks like it slowed it down a little bit."

    Big cases weren't the only ones affected. Even traffic court had limited services available.

    "I was just trying to pay a traffic ticket, and they told me they were on strike," said Muhammad Hinosh. "So I guess I get to leave? And not pay my ticket?"

    The SCPEA said many of its workers haven't had a pay raise in eight years, and they've been working without a contract for two years. They've been offered a 4.5 percent raise this year and last, along with an immediate 5 percent raise this year, all of which the union turned down because it said workers were not offered a raise for next year.

    It is the first time the Superior Court Professional Employees Association has ever gone on strike, organizers said.

    The strikers were bolstered by support from county Supervisor Cindy Chavez as well as the San Jose Police Officers Association.

    "You know we're working out butts off," said Kristi Potter, a courtroom clerk. "We're doing two or three jobs, and it's just a slap in the face."

    Court Management acknowledged there was limited service but said every area of the court was open to a certain degree. Timetables for trials and other services will be evaluated on a case by case basis.

    The court has no plans to take legal action to force any workers to return due to public safety concerns. Officials did not want to speculate on how long it can accommodate the strike.

    No new labor talks have been scheduled, and the union said the picket line will return Thursday.

    Below is the breakdown of limited services at each facility. For more details, visit the court's website.

    • DTS/Old Court House (Civil/Probate) – Clerk’s Office will have limited services. Matters will be heard as staff is available.
    • Hall of Justice (Criminal) – Clerk’s Office will have limited services. Matters will be heard as staff is available.
    • Notre Dame Courthouse (Self Help/Child Support) – Self Help Center will remain closed as is the normal practice on Wednesdays. Clerk’s Office will be closed and customers will be redirected to Family Court located at Park Center Plaza. Matters will be heard as staff is available.
    • Morgan Hill (Criminal) – Clerk’s Office will be closed but a drop box will be available. Matters will be heard as staff is available.
    • Palo Alto (Criminal) – Clerk’s Office will be closed but a drop box will be available. Matters will be heard as staff is available.
    • Park Center Plaza (Family) – Clerk’s Office will have limited services. Matters will be heard as staff is available.
    • Santa Clara (Traffic) – Clerk’s Office will have limited services. Hearings will be taken up as staff is available.
    • Sunnyvale Courthouse (Family) – Clerk’s Office will be closed and customers will be redirected to Family Court located at Park Center Plaza. Matters will be heard as staff is available.
    • Terraine/Guadalupe (Drug & Mental Health/Juvenile Dependency) – Clerk’s Office will have limited services. Matters will be heard as staff is available.

    Get the latest from NBC Bay Area anywhere, anytime
    • Download the App

      Available for IOS and Android