Almassy v. Los Angeles County Civil Service Commission

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Writing for the CourtSPENCE; GIBSON
Citation34 Cal.2d 387,210 P.2d 503
PartiesALMASSY v. LOS ANGELES COUNTY CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION et al. L. A. 20478.
Decision Date25 October 1949

Page 503

210 P.2d 503
34 Cal.2d 387
ALMASSY

v.
LOS ANGELES COUNTY CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION et al.
L. A. 20478.
Supreme Court of California.
Oct. 25, 1949.

Page 505

[34 Cal.2d 389] Harmel L. Pratt, Los Angeles, for appellant.

Culbert L. Olson and John W. Olson, Los Angeles, as amicus curiae on behalf of appellant.

Harold W. Kennedy, County Counsel, Charles C. Stanley, Jr., and Andrew O. Porter, Deputy County Counsel, Los Angeles, for respondents.

Fred N. Howser, Attorney General, Wilmer W. Morse, Deputy Attorney General, Albert E. Weller, County Counsel, San Bernardino, B. L. Lunceford, Deputy Counsel, San Bernardino, Ray L. Chesebro, City Attorney, Los Angeles, [34 Cal.2d 390] Bourke Jones, Assistant City Attorney, George William Adams and Alan G. Campbell, Deputy City Attorneys, Los Angeles, as amicus curiae on behalf of respondents.

SPENCE, Justice.

Petitioner appeals from a judgment denying his application for a writ of mandate to compel the Los Angeles County Civil Service Commission to annul two promotional civil service examinations and the corresponding eligible lists promulgated upon the results thereof. The problem presented is the validity of certain evaluation procedure, in addition to written tests, adopted by the commission as part of the process of rating candidates for the positions to be filled an allegedly common practice in the conduct of civil service examinations throughout the state. While it appears that the eligible lists here attacked have already expired by reason of the lapse of the prescribed two-year limit (Charter, art. IX, sec. 34(4); Commission rule XI, sec. 3), the evaluation procedure challenged in the present case is in current use. Its validity is a matter of importance to the commission and would probably be relitigated until a final decision was given by this court. The questions involved in the present case are continuing and 'their consideration ought not to be * * * defeated, by short term orders, capable of repetition, yet evading review * * *.' Southern Pacific Terminal Co. v. Interstate Commerce Commission, 219 U.S. 498, 515, 31 S.Ct. 279, 283, 55 L.Ed. 310; also, Federal Trade Commission v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 304 U.S. 257, 58 S.Ct. 863, 82 L.Ed. 1326; Ford Motor Co. v. United States, 335 U.S. 303, 313, 69 S.Ct. 93. A decision on the merits is therefore proper.

There is no dispute as to the facts, pursuant to the parties' submission of the cause upon stipulation. In August, 1946, petitioner, an employee of the Probation Department of Los Angeles County, participated as a candidate in two promotional examinations for the respective positions of senior deputy probation officer, adult division and juvenile division. He failed to pass either examination, and his name did not appear on the eligible lists as subsequently promulgated by the commission on September 20, 1946. Within the time and in the manner provided by the rules of the commission, he duly prosecuted an appeal to that body, in which he protested the validity of the examinations and the method of their conduct. [34 Cal.2d 391] By decision of December 24, 1946, the commission raised petitioner's final evaluation grade by a slight percentage in each instance but not enough to qualify him with a passing average upon either examination, and denied the appeal in all other respects. Petitioner then brought the present proceeding.

Both in the trial court and upon this appeal, petitioner has maintained that the two promotional examinations in question and the corresponding eligible lists were illegal and void for failure to comply with the controlling provisions of the Los Angeles County Charter and the rules of the civil service commission established pursuant thereto. However, careful analysis of the challenged procedure reveals it to be within the bounds of determination by the commission consistent with the broad powers conferred upon that administrative body to act in the premises.

The charter requires the commission to 'prescribe * * * rules for the classified

Page 506

service, which shall have the force and effect of law', art. IX, sec. 34, and which 'shall provide * * * for open, competitive examinations to test the relative fitness of applicants for such positions'. Art. IX, sec. 34(2). It also requires that the said rules 'provide * * * for promotion based on competitive examination and records of efficiency, character, conduct and seniority. Lists shall be created and promotion made therefrom in the same manner as prescribed for original appointment.' Art. IX, sec. 34(11). The charter further states: 'All examinations shall be impartial and shall deal with the duties and requirements of the position to be filled. When oral tests are used, a record of the examination, showing basis of rating, shall be made. * * * The Commission may call on other persons to draw up, conduct or mark examinations.' Art. IX, sec. 36. These last-quoted provisions are incorporated verbatim in rule VII, sections 3 and 10, respectively, of the rules established by the commission, while rule VIII, section 1, repeats the above-quoted provisions of charter section 34(11), with the addition of the following: 'The rules governing promotional examinations shall be the same as those governing original entrance examinations except as herein provided.' Sections 4 and 5 of rule VIII then provide that in 'all promotional examinations each employee shall be given, in addition to all other credits, a credit for efficiency' and 'a credit for seniority,' each not to exceed 'five per cent of the total credits specified for (the) examination' and as 'calculated from the Commission's record' thereof.

[34 Cal.2d 392] The 'Commission shall prepare, or have prepared under its direction, all examinations', rule VII, sec. 2, which 'shall embrace * * * subjects to which weights shall be assigned, the weight given to each subject to represent its relative value in ascertaining the fitness of the applicant. Each subject of examination shall be graded indeptendently; this grade shall be multiplied by the weight assigned to such subject; the sum of the resulting products shall be divided by the total weight of all subjects in the examination, and the resulting quotient shall be the general average which shall be used in determining the order in which the name of the applicant shall appear on the eligible list * * *. Unless otherwise provided in notices posted prior to holding the examination, the average percentage for proficiency required for passing shall be seventy per cent.' Rule VII, sec. 9. The 'examination papers written by an applicant shall be open to his inspection * * * (but) the references and oral rating sheets shall be deemed confidential and shall not be open to (his) inspection.' Rule VII, sec. 13. Provision is made for the taking of a written appeal to the commission for 'a change in rating in any part of the examination,' and 'after consideration of the entire matter the Commission shall make its decision and determine the final rating of the candidate, which determination shall be final for all purposes.' Rule VII, sec. 15.

The same procedure prevailed with respect to both of the promotional examinations here in question. As stated in the bulletin announcements, they consisted of two phases: (1) a written test and (2) 'an evaluation of the education, experience and personal fitness of each of the applicants, as verified by interview, investigation or references.' Each of the two parts was assigned a relative weight of 50 per cent of the total grade. It is not contended here that the examinations were in any way defective or illegal insofar as the written parts are concerned, but objection is made solely to the equally weighted 'evaluation' portions as determined by the commission to embrace factors properly subject of consideration in the fixing of the final grading.

The evaluation phase of the two examinations was conducted in the following manner. The candidate was required to fill out an application form, calling for a variety of personal data as well as detailed information concerning the individual's education and experience. He was then interviewed by two experienced examiners, well acquainted with the subjects of examination and the qualifications determined by the commission[34 Cal.2d 393] to be necessary and important in the position to be filled. Each

Page 507

of the examiners rated the candidate on the basis of information contained in his application form, and educed or observed at the interview, as to his education, experience and personal fitness. These ratings were effected by making entries upon 'General Qualifications Appraisal Record' forms furnished by the commission. These forms were subdivided into three sections, the first two of which contained blank spaces for entries adapted for rating the candidate upon 'Education' and 'Experience,' respectively. The third section, to which petitioner's objection is chiefly directed, was entitled 'Personal Fitness' and was in the following form:

"Personal Fitness:

Physical Characteristics Poor Weak Acceptable Good Superior

a. Appearance a. ----- ----- ---------- ---- --------

b. Voice and Speech b. ----- ----- ---------- ---- --------

Intellectual Factors

c. Alertness c. ----- ----- ---------- ---- --------

d. Judgment (Depth and

maturity of thinking.) d. ----- ----- ---------- ---- --------

e. Ability to express ideas e. ----- ----- ---------- ---- --------

Emotional Factors

f. Poise (Emotional

adjustment,

stability.) f. ----- ----- ---------- ---- --------

g. Social adaptability

(Ability to meet

people, make social

adjustment.) g. ----- ----- ---------- ---- --------

Professional Development

h. Orientation in the field

(Knowledge of new

trends, current

problems.) h. ----- ----- ---------- ---- --------

i. Interest in job. i. ----- ----- ---------- ---- --------

Final Evaluation:

-------------- ---- ------------...

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51 practice notes
  • Professional Eng. v. State Personnel Bd., No. C028402.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 11 Julio 2001
    ...state Constitution." (Kidd, supra, 62 Cal. App.4th at p. 402, 72 Cal.Rptr.2d 758; see Almassy v. L.A. County Civil Service Com. (1949) 34 Cal.2d 387, 398, 210 P.2d 503 (Almassy) ["each candidate was pitting his personality traits against those of every other candidate incident to the examin......
  • People v. Brown, Cr. 6655
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • 22 Diciembre 1960
    ...question should be settled in the interest of effective appellant court administration. See Almassy v. L. A. County Civil Service Com., 34 Cal.2d 387, 390, 210 P.2d 503; Walling v. Mutual Wholesale Food & Supply Co., 8 Cir., 141 F.2d 331, 334-335; People ex rel. Wallace v. Labrenz, 411 Ill.......
  • Fire Fighters Local 798 v. San Francisco, No. A104822.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 20 Enero 2005
    ...employment and the commission invoked an exception to that restriction on its powers. In Almassy v. L.A. County Civil Service Com. (1949) 34 Cal.2d 387, 210 P.2d 503, the California Supreme Court reviewed for abuse of discretion a civil service commission decision to alter the design of a c......
  • Blakely v. Lancaster Cnty., No. S–11–686.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Nebraska
    • 16 Noviembre 2012
    ...See 5 Stevenson, supra note 48, § 76A.08[4] and [5]. 53. See, e.g., Bennett, supra note 51; Almassy v. L.A. County Civil Service Com., 34 Cal.2d 387, 210 P.2d 503 (1949); Ziomek, supra note 25, citing Matter of Fink v. Finegan, 270 N.Y. 356, 1 N.E.2d 462 (1936). 54. See, e.g., People ex rel......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
51 cases
  • Professional Eng. v. State Personnel Bd., No. C028402.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 11 Julio 2001
    ...state Constitution." (Kidd, supra, 62 Cal. App.4th at p. 402, 72 Cal.Rptr.2d 758; see Almassy v. L.A. County Civil Service Com. (1949) 34 Cal.2d 387, 398, 210 P.2d 503 (Almassy) ["each candidate was pitting his personality traits against those of every other candidate incident to the examin......
  • People v. Brown, Cr. 6655
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • 22 Diciembre 1960
    ...question should be settled in the interest of effective appellant court administration. See Almassy v. L. A. County Civil Service Com., 34 Cal.2d 387, 390, 210 P.2d 503; Walling v. Mutual Wholesale Food & Supply Co., 8 Cir., 141 F.2d 331, 334-335; People ex rel. Wallace v. Labrenz, 411 Ill.......
  • Fire Fighters Local 798 v. San Francisco, No. A104822.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 20 Enero 2005
    ...employment and the commission invoked an exception to that restriction on its powers. In Almassy v. L.A. County Civil Service Com. (1949) 34 Cal.2d 387, 210 P.2d 503, the California Supreme Court reviewed for abuse of discretion a civil service commission decision to alter the design of a c......
  • Blakely v. Lancaster Cnty., No. S–11–686.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Nebraska
    • 16 Noviembre 2012
    ...See 5 Stevenson, supra note 48, § 76A.08[4] and [5]. 53. See, e.g., Bennett, supra note 51; Almassy v. L.A. County Civil Service Com., 34 Cal.2d 387, 210 P.2d 503 (1949); Ziomek, supra note 25, citing Matter of Fink v. Finegan, 270 N.Y. 356, 1 N.E.2d 462 (1936). 54. See, e.g., People ex rel......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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