Whistleblower Protection Act Shields Court Employees From Retaliation for Reporting Misconduct
|California State Auditor Whistleblower Hotline|
At that time, the Act was revised to protect from retaliation court employees who report misconduct by judges or co-workers, including violations of the California Rules of Court.
The 2011 law designates a violation of state court rules as an improper governmental activity, in the same category of misconduct as corruption, malfeasance, bribery, theft of government property, fraud, coercion, willful omission to perform duty, and similar types of misconduct.
Court watchdogs allege that in Sacramento Family Court, a number of state court rules are routinely ignored by judges and court clerks. We're investigating the allegations, and will report our findings in the near future. We've also had reports that courtroom bailiffs are not enforcing the law, which one national family court website has documented is a common problem. Familylawcourts.com notes that some bailiffs act as "judicial puppets," and has called for bailiff education.
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As we reported in 2011, the Supreme Court, Courts of Appeal, superior courts and Administrative Office of the Courts are now included in the California Whistleblower Protection Act "state agency" definition. Among other benefits, the revised definition ensures that the protections of the Act extend to court employees. Under the Act, court employees who make complaints about improper governmental activities by judges or co-workers are protected from retaliation. Retaliation includes intimidation, the denial of appointment or promotion, a threat of adverse action, a poor performance evaluation, involuntary transfer, or any form of disciplinary action.
Jury Awards Court Employee $313,206 In Retaliation Case
On October 10, 2012 a Sacramento Superior Court jury awarded court employee Emily Gallup $313,206 in a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit against her employer, Nevada County Superior Court. Click here to read Emily Gallup's whistleblower lawsuit. The actual jury verdict can be viewed at this link. To read the court order about the verdict, click here.
How To Report Misconduct
|The California State Auditor offers |
a toll-free hotline for reporting
misconduct by state employees.
Criminal Prosecution for Failing to Report MisconductCourt employees may be subject to criminal prosecution under several state statutes, including Penal Code sections 470(c) and 470(d), which prohibit altering, corrupting, or falsifying legal records or documents. Failing to report a judge or co-worker engaged in criminal conduct may expose a court employee to the same criminal prosecution as an accessory, for aiding and abetting, conspiracy, or under the natural and probable consequences doctrine.
In addition, several federal criminal statutes may apply to court worker misconduct. Employees who deprive public court users of constitutional or civil rights can be prosecuted for deprivation of rights under color of law, or conspiracy to violate civil rights. Sacramento Family Court receives federal funds and court users have a federally protected right to honest services. A deprivation of the right is a crime under 18 U.S.C. § 1346.
To view federal honest services case law decisions, click here. To view federal indictments for honest services fraud, click here. Employees aware of, but who do not report federal criminal activity can be changed with misprision of felony under 18 USC § 4. Click here to view a federal misprision of felony indictment.
|Sacramento Family Court employees can be prosecuted under a number of federal criminal laws, including deprivation of the right to honest services.|
For the complete California Whistleblower Protection Act, click here.
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