Wednesday, June 3, 2009

No Constitutionally Mandated Pay Increase For State Attorneys

Article VII, Section 1(b) enshrines the "merit principle" as the sole criterion for appointment and promotion in the state civil service. While this article has been construed broadly to prohibit "contracting out," it does not enshrine the principle of "like pay for like work." Accordingly, the Court of Appeal in California Attorneys v. Schwarzenegger (here) has dismissed a claim by the union representing lawyers in the Attorney General's office that their low salaries create a constitutional violation. Nor could the Attorney General prove that the low salaries of the lawyers in his office made it impossible for him to fulfill his constitutional duties. In a snarky concurring opinion, Justice Scotland pointed out the irony that the present state statute authorizing collective bargaining over salaries for state employees was promoted by then-Governor Brown, who now as Attorney General finds himself the victim of changes that he loudly championed as Governor.

The Court's ruling was right, and dictated by the result in Pacific Legal Foundation v. Brown, 29 Cal. 3d 168 (1981), where the court rejected the claim that collective bargaining and the merit principle were incompatible. (Jerry Falk and I represented the State Personnel Board in that case.)

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