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Monday, July 15, 2024 | Back issues
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Elected Judges Sue CalPERS Over Pensions

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Six judges elected to California superior courts in 2012 were lumped in with newer judges and a newer, stingier pension plan, the judges claim in court.

Lead plaintiff Matthew McGlynn, of Tehama County, claims the Public Employees Pension Reform Act was unfairly and retroactively applied to him and others who were elected to the bench before the enactment of the law in 2013.

McGlynn et al. claim they ended up with a worse deal in a change-up that violated the new law and the state constitution. They sued the state, the state controller, the Judicial Council and the California Public Employees Retirement System, or CalPERS.

By the time the new pension scheme took effect on Jan. 1, 2013, the judges say, they were already members of Judges Retirement System II, dubbed JRSII, yet the judicial council and the controller changed the terms of their membership.

"It increased petitioners' salary withholdings, permitted reductions to petitioners' salaries during their terms of office in violation of the Constitution, and diminished the pension benefits they are entitled to earn," the judges claim.

In addition to McGlynn, plaintiffs include San Diego Superior Court Judge Gary Kreep, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Tara Flanagan, Imperial County Superior Court Judge Louis Brooks Anderholt, Kings County Superior Court Judge Jennifer Giuliani, and Yuba County Superior Court Judge Benjamin Wirtschafter.

The previous and the new judicial pension plans are both funded by a mix of contributions from the counties, the state and salary reductions.

"Under JRLII, a judge becomes entitled to earn benefits under JRSII at the time of their election to judicial office, and final retirement benefits are computed with respect to the paid service performed by the time of their retirement," the complaint states.

"Membership in JRSII is self-executing; under JRSII an individual becomes a member upon election or appointment to judicial office."

The Judicial Council and CalPERS allowed the roughly 30 judges who gained their seats in 2012 by appointment rather than election to join the JRSII, the complaint states.

"Many such judges are employed in the same courthouses as petitioners. Respondents have permitted such appointed judges to participate in JRSII under the terms in effect prior to PEPRA's effective date, but have denied such rights to elected judges."

The judges say they spent considerable time and money winning office, and wound down their law practices based in part on their understanding of the compensation at their courts. They started out in the older pension plan but were informed in March this year that they would be moved to the newer, less generous plan.

Instead of a salary withholding capped at 8 percent, the new judges say they learned they would have to foot an additional 6 percent of the annual cost of funding their pensions.

They claim the California Constitution forbids any reduction of the salary of an elected official while in office.

The judges are represented by Teague Paterson, with Beeson, Tayer & Bodine in Oakland.

They seek declaratory judgment and writ of mandate ordering the state to let them participate in JRSII, and to refund the contributions they say they have overpaid.

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