County of Sonoma v. Superior Court

Decision Date24 April 2009
Docket NumberNo. A122450.,A122450.
Citation173 Cal.App.4th 322,93 Cal. Rptr. 3d 39
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals


The County of Sonoma (the County) seeks relief from an order of the superior court compelling the County to arbitrate with real party in interest Sonoma County Law Enforcement Association (SCLEA) under the procedures established in Code of Civil Procedure section 1299 et seq.1 In County of Riverside v. Superior Court (2003) 30 Cal.4th 278 [132 Cal.Rptr.2d 713, 66 P.3d 718] (Riverside), the California Supreme Court held an earlier version of that statute unconstitutional, because the statute impermissibly infringed upon home rule powers reserved to local governments by article XI of the California Constitution. (Riverside, at p. 282.) The Legislature amended the statute in response to the Supreme Court's decision. But the County contends the amended version continues to intrude upon its constitutional authority to establish compensation and terms of employment for county employees. We agree with the County and will therefore grant its petition for writ of mandate.


The County's challenge focuses on the constitutionality of section 1299 et seq., but that statute cannot be understood in isolation. Because this case concerns the collective bargaining process between local government agencies and public employee organizations, the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act (MMBA), Government Code sections 3500 to 3510, is also relevant to our analysis. (See Voters for Responsible Retirement v. Board of Supervisors (1994) 8 Cal.4th 765, 780 [35 Cal.Rptr.2d 814, 884 P.2d 645] (Voters for Responsible Retirement).) We will therefore summarize the relevant provisions of the MMBA before setting out the history of current section 1299 et seq.


The MMBA was enacted to "provid[e] a reasonable method of resolving disputes regarding wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment between public employers and public employee organizations." (Gov. Code, § 3500, subd. (a).) The MMBA covers employees of any "public agency," a term that embraces all municipalities and local governmental subdivisions of the state, including counties. (Gov. Code, § 3501, subds. (c), (d).) The statute grants public employees the right to form and join "employee organizations" for the purpose of representation on matters of employer-employee relations. (Gov. Code, § 3502.)

As pertinent here, the negotiation process established by the MMBA requires public agencies to meet and confer in good faith with representatives of recognized employee organizations regarding wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment. (Gov. Code, § 3505.) If these meetings produce an agreement, the representatives of the parties must jointly prepare a written memorandum of understanding (MOU). (Gov. Code, § 3505.1.) The statute makes explicit, however, that the MOU "shall not be binding," but rather must be presented to the public agency's governing body "for determination." (Gov. Code, § 3505.1.) Once the governing body approves the MOU, "it then becomes binding on both parties." (Voters for Responsible Retirement, supra, 8 Cal.4th at p. 781.)

Government Code section 3505 states that the meet-and-confer process "should include adequate time for the resolution of impasses where specific procedures for such resolution are contained in local rule, regulation, or ordinance, or when such procedures are utilized by mutual consent." Thus, if the parties reach an impasse in their negotiations, the public agency and the employee organization may agree to appointment of a mediator. (Gov. Code, § 3505.2.) In addition to mediation, the MMBA authorizes public agencies to adopt additional procedures for dispute resolution. (Gov. Code, § 3507, subd. (a)(5).) If after meeting and conferring in good faith, the parties have reached an impasse and exhausted any applicable impasse procedures, "a public agency that is not required to proceed to interest arbitration may implement its last, best, and final offer, but shall not implement [an MOU]." (Gov. Code, § 3505.4.) In those circumstances, the MMBA permits unilateral implementation of a public agency's last, best, and final offer.

Senate Bill No. 402

In 2000, the Legislature adopted Senate Bill No. 402 (1999-2000 Reg. Sess.) (Senate Bill 402), which added title 9.5 to part 3 of the Code of Civil Procedure. (Stats. 2000, ch. 906, § 2, codified at Code Civ. Proc., § 1299 et seq.) As initially enacted, Senate Bill 402 provided for compulsory binding arbitration of labor disputes between employee organizations representing firefighters and law enforcement officers and the local agencies employing them.2 Then as now, the statute provided that if in the course of labor negotiations, an employer and an employee organization reached an impasse over matters within the scope of arbitration, the employee organization (but not the employer) could request referral of the dispute to an arbitration panel. (§ 1299.4, subd. (a).) Economic issues, including salaries, wages, benefits, and all other forms of remuneration, fall within the scope of arbitration. (§ 1299.3, subd. (g).)

The arbitration panel established by Senate Bill 402 consists of three members, with the employer and the employee organization each choosing one member, who then designate "an impartial person with experience in labor and management dispute resolution to act as chairperson of the arbitration panel." (§ 1299.4, subd. (b).) Once selected, the arbitration panel is empowered to meet with the parties or their representatives, to make inquiries and investigations, to hold hearings, and to take any other action the panel deems appropriate. (§ 1299.5, subd. (a).) The panel also has broad authority to subpoena witnesses, administer oaths, take testimony, issue subpoenas duces tecum and to require the production of the parties' records, books, and papers. (§ 1299.5, subd. (b).)

Prior to the panel's hearings, each of the parties is required to submit its "last best offer of settlement as to each of the issues within the scope of arbitration . . . ." (§ 1299.6, subd. (a).) After conclusion of the hearing, the panel decides the disputed contract issues by selecting, without modification, the last best offer "that most nearly complies with" a list of "factors traditionally taken into consideration in the determination of those matters within the scope of arbitration . . . ."3 (§ 1299.6, subds. (b), (c).) The statute provides that the panel must then deliver its decision to the parties, but the decision is not to be publicly disclosed for a period of five days, during which time the parties may meet privately and amend or modify the decision by mutual agreement. (§ 1299.7, subd. (a).) Under the original version of the statute, the panel's decision was made public at the conclusion of the five-day period and automatically became binding on the parties. (Former § 1299.7, subd. (b), as enacted by Stats. 2000, ch. 906, § 2.) The statute empowers the arbitration panel to have the decision made part of any existing MOU. (§ 1299.7, subd. (b).)

County of Riverside v. Superior Court

In 2003, the California Supreme Court declared Senate Bill 402 unconstitutional. (Riverside, supra, 30 Cal.4th at pp. 282, 296.) The high court determined that the legislation violated two separate sections of article XI of the California Constitution (article XI). (30 Cal.4th at p. 282.) The court held that the statute violated section 1, subdivision (b) (section 1, subdivision (b)) of that article, which states that a county's "`governing body shall . . . provide for the . . . compensation . . . of its employees.'" (30 Cal.4th at p. 289.) It further held that the legislation was inconsistent with section 11, subdivision (a) of article XI (section 11, subdivision (a)), which provides that "`[t]he Legislature may not delegate to a private person or body power to make, control, appropriate, supervise, or interfere with county . . . money, . . . or perform municipal functions.'" (30 Cal.4th at p. 291.)

The Supreme Court held that Senate Bill 402 contravened section 1, subdivision (b) of article XI "by compelling [the county] to submit to binding arbitration of compensation issues." (Riverside, supra, 30 Cal.4th at p. 285.) The court explained that the language of section 1, subdivision (b) clearly provides that "the county, not the state, not someone else, shall provide for the compensation of its employees." (Riverside, at p. 285, original italics.) The statute violated section 1, subdivision (b) because it "permits the union to change the county's governing board from the body that sets compensation for its employees to just another party in arbitration . . . [and] thereby deprives the county of the authority section 1, subdivision (b), specifically gives to counties." (Riverside, at p. 285.)

The court rejected the notion that the statute could be upheld because it involved a matter of statewide concern. (Riverside, supra, 30...

To continue reading

Request your trial
38 cases
  • Acosta v. City of Costa Mesa
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit
    • September 5, 2012
  • Larson v. City
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • February 23, 2011
  • Cal. Bldg. Indus. Ass'n v. State Water Res. Control Bd.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • April 20, 2015
  • Parker v. State
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • November 6, 2013
    ... ... Nos. F062490 F062709. Court of Appeals of California, Fifth District. November 6, 2013. Kamala D ... In June 2010, the Sheriff for the County of Tehama, Herb Bauer Sporting Goods, Inc., the California Rifle and ... Superior Court ( Caswell ) (1988) 46 Cal.3d 381, 389 [250 Cal.Rptr. 515, 758 P.2d ... with the approach taken by the First District in County of Sonoma v. Superior Court (2009) 173 Cal.App.4th 322 [93 Cal.Rptr.3d 39], which ... ...
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Public Sector Case Notes
    • United States
    • California Lawyers Association California Labor & Employment Law Review (CLA) No. 30-4, July 2016
    • Invalid date
    ...Diego Housing Comm'n v. Public Employment Relations Bd. (SEIU Local 221), 246 Cal. App. 4th 1 (2016).13. 30 Cal. 4th 278 (2003).14. 173 Cal. App. 4th 322 (2009).15. 246 Cal. App. 4th at...

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT