SACRAMENTO — A state Court of Appeal, in a case attacking Gov. George Deukmejian's use of the line-item veto to eliminate the state's worker safety program, indicated Monday that it would be strongly influenced by a California Supreme Court decision last week that went against the governor.
During a hearing on a case brought by a group of farm workers and labor unions, Presiding Justice Robert K. Puglia of the 3rd Appellate District read at length from last week's Supreme Court decision on a welfare case.
Puglia drew a comparison between that case, in which the Supreme Court ruled that Deukmejian overstepped his constitutional authority, and the case involving the veto of funds for the state's occupational health and safety program.
At the same time, attorneys for the farm workers won a preliminary injunction in federal court prohibiting the U.S. Department of Labor from completely dismantling the state program pending a decision by the Court of Appeal.
Puglia said a decision on the Cal/OSHA case would be reached by Nov. 6.
The appellate justices were noncommittal, but their intense questioning of Deputy Atty. Gen. Lisa Lewis Dubois and the citation of the Supreme Court decision left attorneys for the farm workers optimistic that they eventually will succeed in overturning Deukmejian's veto of Cal/OSHA funds.
Ralph Abascal, an attorney for California Rural Legal Assistance, which is representing the farm workers, was still elated about the appellate court hearing when he appeared minutes later in the federal court of U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton.
"The circumstances, we believe, have only changed for the better," Abascal told Karlton in pleading for an injunction to halt further efforts by the Department of Labor to take over Cal/OSHA, pending a ruling by the appellate court.
Abascal called last week's ruling by the Supreme Court "a big, big coat of frosting" on the legal case against Deukmejian. After the appellate court hearing, he said, "to be charitable, the Court of Appeal was skeptical of the governor's arguments."
The ruling cited by Puglia set limits on the governor's veto power and said the governor stretched too far in vetoing language establishing a new policy concerning when welfare recipients can begin collecting benefits.
Puglia read a section of the Supreme Court's opinion questioning Deukmejian's action in taking a lump sum appropriation sent to him by the Legislature, dividing it into its component parts, approving the parts he liked and disapproving the parts he didn't like. Puglia asked Deputy Atty. Gen. Dubois whether there was a difference between what happened in the welfare case and what the governor did in the Cal/OSHA case.
Dubois said she thought the two cases were different. Later, she refused to speculate on how the appellate court would rule. "I'll await the court's decision," she said.