Tulare Court workers speak up, improve transparency

Courts photo

Left to right: Kris Inman – Tulare County courtroom clerk, Stella Felix – Tulare County court reporter, Vicki Jaurgui – Kings County jury services.

When a group of SEIU Local 521 Superior Court workers from Tulare County drove over 200 miles to Sacramento last year to speak before  the Judicial Council, they were shocked to learn they would not be allowed to speak during the public comment period because they had not put in a request four days prior to the meeting.

Stella Felix and Kris Inman recognize a bad rule when they see it and successfully worked with SEIU court lobbyists to challenge the four-day mandate, which also required members of the public to submit their verbatim statement and a justification of why that statement is important for the Council to hear.

Local 521 members know that our voices matter and that we have the power to make a difference.  We wrote letters to the chief justice, governor, speaker and speaker pro tempore calling attention to the arcane rule that restricts public participation during public meetings of the Judicial Council, the policy-making body that oversees California courts.

The Council recently announced it was changing the rule so that any person from the public can make a statement during public comment by signing in at the beginning of the meeting.

Additionally, the Council will ask at the end of each public comment period if anyone else at the meeting wants to make a comment. This will ensure that people will truly have the right to be heard during the public meetings of the Council.

Stella Felix, a court reporter for Tulare County had this to say about the rule change:

“This is great progress for us, showing the strength of SEIU members who are committed to improving the judicial branch and ensuring that it operates in a transparent and democratic way. We need more public participation, not less.”

Make sure to check out our Courts blog as well.

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