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Appeals Court Strikes Down Judicial Benefits

LOS ANGELES (CN) - Superior and municipal court judges in Los Angeles County cannot receive employment benefits on top of the salaries set by the state Legislature, a California appeals court ruled.

Justice Benke revived a taxpayer's claim that the extras constituted a violation of state law.

The state constitution requires that the Legislature "prescribe compensation for judges of courts of record." In the late 1980s, the county began providing superior and municipal court judges with employment benefits in addition to their salaries. These perks included thousands of dollars in retirement benefits and medical, dental and vision coverage.

But because these benefits were not prescribed by lawmakers, the court ruled, they cannot be considered valid.

"We have been unable to identify any enactment of the Legislature which prescribes the judicial benefits the county pays its judges," Benke wrote.

The court revived plaintiff Harold Sturgeon's taxpayer suit against the county.

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