SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A California judge has tossed an age-discrimination lawsuit Thursday against the state’s Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and the Judicial Council, brought by eight retired judges challenging limits on the number of years they can continue working after retirement.
“We are not surprised and not unhappy because we want to get into the court of appeal,” said the judges’ attorney Quentin Kopp.
The judges sued after Cantil-Sakauye, who chairs the state’s Judicial Council, instituted changes to the Assigned Judges Program. The program sends retired judges to fill temporary vacancies at courts throughout the state.
In addition to a 1,320-day lifetime service limit, the changes also limited the number of days a retired judge can work each fiscal year to 120, and required newly retired judges to wait 90 days before their first temporary assignment. The eight retired judges claimed in their lawsuit that the changes are arbitrary and discriminate against older judges. Since the changes are retroactive, they directly affect the judges’ ability to continue participating in the program.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ethan Schulman found the chief justice and council are immune from the judges’ discrimination claims because they were acting in a legislative capacity, a rationale he used in a May ruling in which he refused to block the changes from going into effect.
Kopp said the outcome was predictable.
“We knew from the denial of the preliminary injunction that this judge would rely on this doctrine of legislative immunity, which baffles lawyers and ex-legislators I have talked to,” Kopp says. It applies to legislators, but they can’t conceive of it applying it to the judicial branch of government.”
Kopp says he looks forward to taking the case to the appellate level.
Robert Naeve with Jones Day, who represents Cantil-Sakauye and the council, said, “We are pleased with Judge Schulman’s well-reasoned decision.”