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Kearns and Sons

Justices take staff cuts to court

Preliminary injunction granted

By Michael Howell

Ravalli County Justices of the Peace Jim Bailey and Robin Clute have taken their case to District Court for the necessity of retaining two clerk positions that have been cut from the County’s budget. Both Bailey and Clute made their positions plain to the County Commissioners at a meeting that took place prior to final adoption of the budget on Thursday, September 15. They both insisted that the positions were necessary for the offices of justice to function.

The Justices filed their case in District Court on Thursday, September 15, just hours after the Commissioners officially adopted the FY 2012 budget eliminating the two clerk positions. They asked the Court for a Preliminary Injunction preventing the county from reducing its staff because it would leave the courts unable to perform their duties.

The Justices claim in their suit that the Commissioners decided to eliminate the positions without even consulting the courts. The courts were notified by telephone message on August 24 that “we are RIF-ing one position from each court,” according to the Justices.

The Justices claim that the positions of Clerk/Receptionist are vital to the functioning of the courts and the duties cannot be absorbed into the other clerk positions. The Justices claim to have 10,800 open cases which need to be managed and monitored. They claim the one-third reduction in staff would be debilitating.

“The results would be an injustice not only to the justice system, but the community,” they write.

On Friday, September 16, District Court Judge Jeffrey Langton granted a request for a Preliminary Injunction prohibiting layoffs of the Court staff and set a hearing date of Friday, September 23 at 9 a.m. for presentation of arguments for and against a permanent injunction. In his approval of a Preliminary Injunction Langton stated that the positions appear to be actual and necessary expenses for the operation of the Courts.

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