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San Diego Municipal Employees Association v. the Superior Court of San Diego County

June 19, 2012

SAN DIEGO MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES ASSOCIATION, PETITIONER,
v.
THE SUPERIOR COURT OF SAN DIEGO COUNTY, RESPONDENT; CITY OF SAN DIEGO ET AL., REAL PARTIES IN INTEREST.



Petition for Writ of Mandate from an order of the Superior Court of San Diego County, Luis R. Vargas, Judge. Petition granted. (San Diego County Super. Ct. No. 37-2012-00092205-CU-MC-CTL)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: McDONALD, J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

In 2011, the proponents of a voter initiative entitled the Comprehensive Pension Reform Initiative (CPRI) circulated petitions to qualify the CPRI for placement on the San Diego County ballot. The CPRI, if enacted, would amend the charter of the City of San Diego (City) in ways that, among other things, would impact retirement benefits for certain City employees. After the San Diego County Registrar of Voters certified that sufficient signatures had been collected to place the CPRI on the June 5, 2012, voter ballot, petitioner San Diego Municipal Employees Association (MEA), the recognized exclusive bargaining unit for the potentially affected employees, filed an unfair practices charge (UPC) against City with the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB). The UPC alleged City had engaged in an unfair labor practice by not satisfying the meet and confer requirements of the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act (the MMBA) (Gov. Code, § 3500 et seq.) before placing the CPRI on the ballot. Accompanying the MEA's UPC was a request for injunctive relief.

PERB responded to the UPC by issuing a complaint against City, alleging City's conduct violated the MMBA. PERB also authorized its general counsel to file an action in the superior court seeking injunctive relief. PERB filed the present action (the superior court action) seeking, among other relief, an order temporarily enjoining the City from presenting the CPRI to the voters on the June 5, 2012, ballot.

The trial court rejected PERB's motion to enjoin the City from placing the CPRI on the June 5 ballot, and the administrative law judge (ALJ) appointed to hear MEA's UPC scheduled an administrative hearing on the UPC for early April, 2012. However, City moved to stay the administrative hearing and quash the subpoenas issued by the ALJ. The trial court granted City's motions, and MEA has filed this writ proceeding seeking to vacate the trial court's order enjoining further administrative hearings in connection with the UPC. The narrow issue presented here is whether the trial court's order staying the administrative proceedings was proper.

I

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

A. The CPRI

In April 2011 three citizens gave notice to City that they intended to circulate a petition to have the CPRI placed on the ballot; the CPRI contemplated amending City's Charter to alter the pension benefits for certain City employees. MEA, a recognized exclusive bargaining unit for potentially affected employees, made numerous demands that City engage in the meet and confer procedures, allegedly required under People ex rel. Seal Beach Police Officers Assn. v. City of Seal Beach (1984) 36 Cal.3d 591 (Seal Beach), before the CPRI was placed on the ballot. MEA contended the meet and confer procedures applied to the CPRI because the CPRI was a "sham device" used by City officials to circumvent the meet and confer obligations imposed on City by the MMBA. City rejected the MEA's demands to meet and confer, asserting the CPRI was a citizen-initiative rather than a City-sponsored initiative and therefore the meet and confer obligations under the MMBA had no application.

B. The UPC

On November 8, 2011, the San Diego County Registrar of Voters certified that sufficient signatures had been collected to place the CPRI before the voters on the June 5, 2012, ballot. On January 30, 2012, City passed an ordinance to place the CPRI on the June 5, 2012, ballot.

MEA then commenced proceedings against City under Government Code*fn1 section 3509 by filing a UPC with PERB. The UPC alleged (1) City had an obligation under the MMBA to satisfy the meet and confer process before it could alter the terms and conditions of employment for its workers, (2) the CPRI directly and substantially affected the terms and conditions of employment, and (3) officials of City had placed the CPRI on the ballot by manipulating the citizen-initiative process to insulate City from the meet and confer process that would have been mandated had the CPRI been proposed directly by City's legislative body.

The MEA's UPC was accompanied by a request pursuant to PERB regulation 32450 (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 8, § 32450) that PERB exercise the powers conferred by section 3541.3, subdivision (j), to seek temporary injunctive relief. MEA argued that, if City was not enjoined from placing the CPRI on the ballot until after the administrative process on the UPC was completed, the purpose of the meet and confer requirements would be subverted because passage of the CPRI could make it difficult or impossible to unwind the changes to the terms and conditions of employment for the affected employees.

PERB issued letters to City and MEA describing the procedures to be followed to process the UPC, and City filed an initial response asserting it had no meet and confer obligations with respect to the CPRI and had not violated the MMBA. PERB ultimately issued a complaint against City, alleging City's conduct violated sections 3503, 3505, and 3506, as well as California Code of Regulations, title 8, section 32603, subdivisions (a) through (c). PERB ordered an expedited administrative hearing and appointed an ALJ to hold an evidentiary hearing on the UPC. PERB also authorized its general counsel to file an action in the superior court seeking appropriate injunctive relief.

C. The Superior Court Action

PERB filed the present superior court action seeking, among other relief, an order temporarily enjoining the City from presenting the CPRI to the voters on the June 5, 2012, ballot. The motion for injunctive relief, noting PERB was statutorily authorized to seek injunctive relief as an interim remedy against unfair practices, argued the court should grant the requested temporary injunctive relief because both prongs essential to such relief were present: (1) the evidence provided "reasonable cause" to believe an unfair practice had been committed, and (2) an injunction to preserve the status quo pending resolution of the administrative proceedings was "just and proper" because a final determination of whether City violated the MMBA in connection with the CPRI would be rendered meaningless if the CPRI were approved by the voters and enacted into law. City opposed the motion, asserting (1) only City-proposed initiatives are subject to the meet and confer requirements of the MMBA, (2) citizen initiatives are not subject to the meet and confer requirements, and (3) the public officials acted pursuant to their First Amendment rights (not on behalf of City as City's agents) when they supported and promoted the CPRI. City argued that, because neither of the prongs essential to injunctive relief were present (e.g. there was neither reasonable cause to believe an unfair practice had been committed nor would removal of the CPRI from the ballot be just and proper), the injunction should be denied. The trial court, noting the preference for postelection―rather than pre-election―challenges to the validity of initiative measures, rejected PERB's motion for a preliminary injunction because any alleged invalidity could be challenged in quo warrantor proceedings after the election. Accordingly, the trial court denied PERB's motion to enjoin the CPRI from being placed on the June 5 ballot.

D. The Administrative Proceedings

After the court denied PERB's request for injunctive relief, the ALJ appointed to hear MEA's UPC scheduled an administrative hearing on the UPC for early April 2012. City filed its answer in the PERB proceedings that, among other things, denied City, through its agents, had "co-authored, developed, sponsored, promoted, funded and implemented [the CPRI]" while refusing to meet and confer on the terms of the CPRI.*fn2

While the matter was pending before the ALJ in the PERB proceedings, City moved in the superior court action for an order staying the administrative hearing and quashing the subpoenas issued by the ALJ. City's cross-complaint in the superior court action alleged that PERB, by seeking injunctive relief in the superior court, necessarily sought a ruling from the superior court on the merits of whether City had meet and confer obligations in connection with the CPRI, and City alleged that PERB had therefore consented to the superior court's jurisdiction as the sole arbiter of the legal duties of City as to the CPRI. Additionally, City alleged that PERB, by issuing the complaint ...


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