Arizona High Court Appoints Judges to Hear Judicial Pension Case


A group of judges are suing Arizona over a 2011 law that cut pension benefits for long-serving workers in the state judicial system.

The challenge was finding a group of impartial judges to hear the case. But this week, the Arizona Supreme Court selected five unbiased judges to sit the bench.

From the Arizona Republic:

The five judges who will hear the nearly 4-year-old civil case are newer to their positions and are not a part of the old judicial retirement system. They therefore are not affected by the outcome of the lawsuit. In it, several judges challenged a hike in the cost of their retirement benefits by the Elected Officials’ Retirement Plan.


A 2011 pension-reform law increased the amount judges must contribute to their retirement, raising it in steps from 7 percent of their salary to 13 percent. The law was designed to save taxpayer money and shore up the financially ailing Elected Officials’ Retirement Plan and other state retirement systems.

Arizona Court of Appeals Judges Philip Hall and Jon W. Thompson filed suit to roll back the increase, arguing that their pension contributions were locked in by contract at a lower rate. They sued on behalf of themselves and others who were on the bench before July 20, 2011, when the pension-reform law went into effect. Hall has since retired.

Should they prevail, they could have their contribution rates for pensions restored to 7 percent of their salary. That would eventually require government employers to put more taxpayer funds into the retirement system, according to the Elected Officials’ Retirement Plan’s most recent annual report.

The names of the five judges: Karl Eppich of Pinal County, Randall Howe and Kent Cattani of the Court of Appeals, Patricia Trebesch of Yavapai County and Michael Butler of Pima County.


Photo by Joe Gratz via Flickr CC License

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