Once Underpaid Judge Loses Benefits Dispute
(CN) - New York is not liable to a state judge who quit his job with a mistaken belief that he could stay on his health insurance plan, an appeals court ruled.
Although an official with the Office of Court Administration may have erroneously advised then-Justice Robert K. Holdman that he was vested in his state health insurance plan, the official did not owe a special duty to him that was greater than the duty owed to any other employee seeking advice, the Appellate Division's Manhattan-based First Department found Thursday.
As such, the state cannot be held liable for the official's error.
The ruling affirms dismissal of Holdman's attempt to restore his insurance benefits or recover monetary damages in the Court of Claims, in which
Justices David Friedman, David Saxe, Sallie Manzanet-Daniels and Paul Feinman joined in the unsigned decision.
Holdman, who worked as a prosecutor in the Bronx district attorney's office for 14 years before he was appointed to the bench, served as a Supreme Court judge in Westchester County for six years. He insisted in the suit he filed against the OCA that he would not have left his job without the erroneous assurance that he could keep his health insurance.
He said otherwise, however, in a September 2011 resignation letter. The letter, which he sent to the governor and a legal newspaper, said low pay for judges in New York was the "sole" reason why he was stepping down, with great regret.
Holdman submitted his resignation less than a month after a state commission voted 4-3 to give New York judges their first pay raise in 12 years. Ending a long stalemate in the state Legislature over judicial compensation, the commission agreed to phase in a pay increase over three years that boosted the annual salary for justices of the State Supreme Court from $136,700 to $174,000.
The president of an association of Supreme Court justices and the three dissenting members of the commission complained at the time that the pay raise was insufficient. Holdman agreed.
In his letter of resignation to the governor, which he also sent to the New York Law Journal, Holdman blamed the commission and the "failure of politics" for forcing to step down so that he could find a job that would allow him to "properly provide" for his wife and three young children.
"It breaks my heart they will not know their Dad as a judge. Very simply, if there were merely a cost-of-living increase over the time I sat as a judge, they would," Holdman wrote.
Holdman is now North American general counsel for West Legend Corp./The Rilin Group, a multinational Chinese conglomerate.