Judges Sue California Over “Diminished” Pension Benefits

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Six judges are suing California over “diminished” pension benefits brought on by the Public Employees Pension Reform Act, a law passed by the state in 2013.

The judges say their benefits shouldn’t be affected the law, because they were appointed a full year before the law was passed.

From the Appeal-Democrat:

Yuba County Judge Benjamin Wirtschafter and five other judges have sued the state, alleging they’re getting a raw deal on their pensions.

The judges allege the Public Employees Pension Reform Act, which became law in 2013, has increased their salary withholdings, allowed reductions in their pay in violation of the state constitution and “diminished the pension benefits they are entitled to earn,” according to the suit, filed last week in San Francisco Superior Court.

The judges were elected in 2012, so they should not be covered by the pension changes approved in the 2013 law, the suit said.

[…]

In 2012, Judges Retirement System II withheld a flat 8 percent of judges’ salaries.

Now, according to the suit, the six judges are subject to an additional 7.25 percent withholding, resulting in “a fluctuating and increasing — as opposed to guaranteed — rate of contribution toward their pension benefits.”

In addition, their “pension annuity has been diminished by application of a three-year average salary annuity formula,” the suit said.

The suit alleged judges become members of their pension system when they are elected or appointed, and “final benefits are computed with respect to the paid service performed by the time of their retirement.”

According to the suit, the 30 judges who were appointed in 2012 are covered by the pension system’s rules in place before the 2013 changes.

“Many such judges are employed in the same courthouses as (the six judges who sued),” the suit said. “(The state has) permitted such appointed judges to participate in (the pension system) under the terms in effect prior to (the Public Employees Pension Reform Act) effective date, but have denied such rights to elected judges.”

Over the summer, California lawmakers passed an amendment to the Pension Reform Act to clarify that the law didn’t apply to judges elected prior to 2013. But Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed that change.

 

Photo by Joe Gratz via Flickr CC License

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