San Joaquin County courts open after part-time sheriff’s employees call in sick

San Joaquin Superior Court in Stockton, California.
San Joaquin Superior Court in Stockton, California.

The courthouses in Stockton, Manteca and French Camp were up and running normally Wednesday after part-time San Joaquin County sheriff’s employees called in sick and forced the abrupt closure of those facilities Tuesday.

The part-time employees, many of whom are retired sheriff’s deputies, work as per-diem bailiffs. Sheriff’s officials said about 30 of these employees called in sick Tuesday morning, reducing courthouse staffing to emergency levels.

Sheriff’s spokeswoman Deputy Andrea Lopez told The Bee that enough of these part-time bailiffs showed up to work Wednesday, and all courthouses were operating as usual.

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, sheriff’s officials said it’s possible the employees failed to show up for work Tuesday because of an ongoing contract dispute with the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors. But they also said the Sheriff’s Department has no role in those negotiations.

The Record of Stockton reported that the part-time bailiffs work for the Sheriff’s Department, but they are members of the Deputy Sheriff’s Association, the union of full-time deputies. That union has been without a contract with the county for more than four years and has not had a pay raise in more than seven years, and contract talks were at an impasse.

San Joaquin Superior Court officials said in a statement Tuesday that the court was closed, but drop boxes were available for court filings. Staffers also accepted filings for temporary restraining orders at a lobby window.

Ten full-time sheriff’s deputies remained on duty at the Stockton courthouse, and arraignments for incarcerated defendants were still held as scheduled Tuesday.

Lopez told The Record that about 100 arraignments may have been scheduled after the Labor Day holiday weekend. All in-custody arraignments have to be held within 48 business hours.

Court officials announced that all other hearings on Tuesday were rescheduled, and the parties will receive a letter with new hearing dates from the court or their attorneys.

The sick-out, which sheriff’s officials said was done without notice, impacted the main San Joaquin Superior Courthouse in Stockton, its courthouse in Manteca and the Juvenile Court in French Camp.

Sheriff’s officials said the department has grown increasingly dependent on per-diem employees because of budget fluctuations. The department has increased their available annual work limits from 720 hours to 960 hours.

The officials said in the statement that the Sheriff’s Department “is hoping and encouraging the Board of Supervisors and the Deputy Sheriff’s Association to find common ground quickly.”

Rosalio Ahumada writes news stories about criminal court cases in Stanislaus County for The Modesto Bee, issues related to immigration and immigrant communities and breaking news related to crime and public safety. From time to time, he covers the Modesto City Council meetings. He has worked as a news reporter in the Northern San Joaquin Valley since 2004.