Judge Cancels Hearing in Contempt Case Against Schwarzenegger, State Health Officials
Judge Judy Holzer Hersher of Sacramento Superior Court on Thursday canceled an Aug. 17 hearing that she had called earlier in the week with the intention of determining whether Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and other administration officials should be held in contempt of court for issuing emergency regulations to implement higher nurse-to-patient ratios, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The administration had issued the regulations despite an injunction from Holzer Hersher prohibiting such an order.
The issue stems from state rules that stipulated that one nurse should care for no more than five patients in some hospital units beginning Jan. 1, 2005. However, Schwarzenegger in November 2004 issued an emergency regulation to block the 1-to-5 ratio from taking effect, arguing that the lower ratio would exacerbate the state's nurse shortage and cause hospitals to close.
Holzer Hersher in March issued a preliminary injunction, which became permanent this month.
In her written ruling Thursday, Holzer Hersher stated that although the administration's emergency regulations violated her injunction, administration officials had not been willfully disobedient because they were under the "wrong" belief that they could avoid violating her injunction orders if they issued the regulations but did not enforce them (Berthelsen, San Francisco Chronicle, 7/22).
Holzer Hersher wrote, "Disobedience alone ... is not enough; such disobedience must be willful" (AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, 722). She continued, "The court is confident that (the administration's) misperceptions have now been corrected and that re-adoption of the emergency regulation will not resurface as an issue in the future." She noted that the administration is still barred from suspending the new ratios (San Francisco Chronicle, 7/22).
The Schwarzenegger administration plans to appeal the permanent injunction, the Los Angeles Times reports (Los Angeles Times, 7/22).
KQED's "The California Report" on Wednesday reported on Holzer Hersher's statements. The segment includes comments from California Nurses Association Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro (Margolis, "The California Report," KQED, 7/20). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.