Judicial Retirement Plans/Pensions: Missouri

A reader alerts me to Missouri SB 714 which creates an entirely different retirement plan for any judge entering service on or after January 1, 2011.

Judges will be required to reach age sixty-seven and have at least twelve years of service or reach age sixty-two and have twenty years of service before they are eligible for normal retirement. If a judge retires at age sixty-seven with less than twelve years of service, or at sixty-two with less than twenty years service, their retirement compensation will be reduced proportionately. Judges in this retirement plan will be required to contribute four percent of their compensation to the retirement system. Judges will not be able to purchase credit in the retirement plan for their past non-federal full-time public employment or their military service. Judges under this plan who continue to work after their normal retirement date will not have cost-of-living increases added to their retirement compensation for the period of time between their eligibility for retirement and their actual retirement date. When a retired judge under this plan dies, their beneficiary will not receive an amount equal to fifty percent of the judge’s retirement compensation. Instead, judges will make a choice at retirement among the benefit payment options, that includes options for the amount received by the beneficiary. The employee contribution rate, the benefits under the judicial retirement plan, and any other provision of the judicial retirement plan may be altered, amended, increased, decreased, or repealed, but such change will only apply to service or interest credits after the effective date of the change.

This act prohibits a retired judge who becomes employed after January 1, 2011, as an employee eligible to participate in the Missouri State Employees Retirement System retirement plan from receiving their judicial retirement benefits while they are employed. Any judge who serves as a judge while he or she is receiving their judicial retirement is prohibited from receiving their judicial retirement while serving as a judge. A judge who serves as a senior judge or senior commissioner while receiving judicial retirement will continue to receive judicial retirement and additional credit and salary for their service.

Judicial Retirement Plans/Pensions: Western States

California AB 399 Requires, for the Judges’ Retirement System and the Judges’ Retirement System II, that calculations of retirement benefits and Extended Service Incentive Program benefits for any judge who voluntarily waives salary, as described above, include salary and contributions that would have been paid had the judge not done so, and that the state pay costs that result from the increased benefits and monetary credits. Signed into law by Governor 10/11/09.

California AB 590 Requires that a person who is retired under the Judges’ Retirement System who is again appointed or elected to serve as a judge reinstate from retirement and become a member of the system, as specified. Revises provisions governing the payment of accrued, unpaid allowances in both judges’ retirement systems to provide for their payment to either the estate of the deceased or the duly authorized representative of the estate when the court receives a court order appointing an executor, administrator, or personal representative. Provides if the estate does not require probate, the bill would also authorize the payment to be made to a successor trustee, or to a beneficiary of the deceased named in a valid will, as applicable. Signed into law by Governor 8/5/09.

Utah SB 130 Repeals allocation of certain small claims fees to the Judges’ Retirement Trust Fund. Signed into law by Governor 3/22/10.

Judicial Retirement Plans/Pensions: Southern States

Georgia HB 202 Authorizes the boards of all public retirement systems operating under Title 47 of O.C.G.A to adopt any rules which are required to meet the necessary federal compliance standards. It requires all systems to comply with mandatory distribution requirements that are included in the Internal Revenue Code. Clarifies provisions relating to rollovers from public retirement systems to other qualified plans, and revises language relating to maximum benefits payable to ensure the language is consistent with the Internal Revenue Code.

Georgia HB 210 Amends provisions relating to membership in the Georgia Judicial Retirement System. Clarifies that certain attorney‘s employed by the office of Legislative Counsel or the Department of Law on June 30, 2005, shall retain all rights and obligations as exist on that day. Those in this group shall be subject to all provisions of this chapter applicable to solicitors-general of the state courts, and Employer contributions shall be paid by respective employers under such Code sections.

Georgia HB 452 Provides that members of the Georgia Judicial Retirement System who become members on or after July 1, 2009, not be entitled to receive any postretirement benefit adjustments.

Georgia SB 109 Provides for each of the following Councils to pay their respective employer contributions for retirement: Superior Court Judges, State Court Judges, Juvenile Court Judges and the Prosecuting Attorneys. Requires  that each of these Councils be authorized, and directed to pay from funds appropriated or otherwise available in additional amount equal to the 5% contribution of the member plus an additional 20% so that the state contribution is in accordance with the Employees’ Retirement System of Georgia

Georgia SB 177 Provides that appellate court judges who become members of the Employees’ Retirement System of Georgia, and persons who become members of the Georgia Judicial Retirement System on or after July 1, 2009, not be entitled to Survivors benefits.

Kentucky HB 182 Permits the Judicial Form Retirement System board of trustees to promulgate administrative regulations to conform with federal statutes and regulations and to meet the qualification requirements under 26 U.S.C. Section 401(a).

Kentucky HB 289 Judicial Retirement Plan to honor qualified domestic relations orders if the orders meet the requirements established by the retirement systems or plan and by these sections

North Carolina HB 1507 & SB 703 Permits assets of Consolidated Judicial Retirement System and systems to may be invested in securities traded on a public securities exchange or market organized and regulated pursuant to the laws of the jurisdiction of such exchange or market (previously limited to “preferred or common stock”) . Signed into law by governor 6/11/09.

North Carolina HB 649 & SB 691 Specifies Treasurer’s responsibilities and duties regarding Consolidated Judicial Retirement System and other retirement systems. Signed into law by Governor 7/10/09.

Oklahoma HB 1110 (2009) Requires Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System deliver two reports of the fiscal activities of  the State Judicial Retirement Fund for the fiscal year to the Legislative Service Bureau. House and Senate conference committee unable to come to agreement 5/27/09.

Oklahoma HB 2357 (2010) Requires Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System deliver two reports of the fiscal activities of  the State Judicial Retirement Fund for the fiscal year to the Legislative Service Bureau. Approved by full House 2/10/10. Approved with Senate amendment by full Senate 3/29/10. To House to concur with amendment.

Oklahoma SB 1059 Makes various modifications to employer contribution rates for Uniform Retirement System for Justices and Judges. Requires certain funds be transferred to the Judicial Retirement Fund.  Approved by full Senate 3/9/09. Died in House.

Oklahoma SB 212 Specifies that the funded ratio for the State Judicial Retirement Fund should be at or near 90%  (previously 100%) or be receiving sufficient contributions to amortize any unfunded liability of the fund according to the adopted amortization schedule.  Modifies the Board of Trustees ability to raise employer contribution rates. Signed into law by Governor 5/26/09.

Virginia HB 1189 & SB 232 Changes member contributions for those under the Judicial Retirement System or other specified plans. Institutes a new service weight schedule based on the judge’s age at the time he or she is appointed or elected to an original term commencing July 1, 2010 Changes the requirements for unreduced early retirement benefits from 50 years of age and 30 years of creditable service, to the “Rule of 90” (combination of age and service equals 90). Approved by House and Senate 3/11/10. To Governor for approval.

Judicial Retirement Plans/Pensions: Midwestern States

Indiana HB 1205 AMENDMENT TO BILL: Establishes the Indiana public retirement system to administer and manage the Judges’ Retirement Fund and nine other retirement funds. Creates an 11-member board of trustees for the system. Provides that each retirement fund continues as a separate fund managed by the board. Amendment approved by Senate 2/23/10. House rejected amendment.

Indiana SB 298 Establishes the Indiana public retirement system to administer and manage the Judges’ Retirement Fund and nine other retirement funds. Creates an 11-member board of trustees for the system. Provides that each retirement fund continues as a separate fund managed by the board. Approved by full Senate 2/2/10.

Indiana SB 397 Establishes the Indiana public retirement system to administer and manage the Judges’ Retirement Fund and nine other retirement funds. Creates an 11-member board of trustees for the system. Provides that each retirement fund continues as a separate fund managed by the board. Approved by Senate Committee on Pensions and Labor 1/28/10.

Indiana SB 98 Eliminates references to the Treasurer of State’s duties concerning the Judges’ Retirement System and other named retirement funds. Approved by full Senate 1/19/10.

Michigan HB 4073 Creates an irrevocable trust for each of the State’s five retirement systems, including the judges retirement act of 1992,  pursuant to Section 115 of the Internal Revenue Code, 26 USC 115. Approved by full House 3/4/09. Approved by Senate Appropriations Committee 12/19/09.

Michigan HB 4078 Amends the Judges Retirement Act to specify that, as of July 1, 2009, the Department of Management and Budget would be responsible for authorizing and administering the group retiree health insurance plan (hospitalization and medical coverage) and dental and vision plan.  (Currently this is a function of the Civil Service Commission, which has recently become an autonomous entity within DMB since the abolition of the Department of Civil Service in 2007.)  Approved by full House 3/4/090. In Senate Appropriations Committee.

Michigan SB 132 Amends law related to the health insurance premium payments under the Judges Retirement Act:  For participants with four years of service, the State is required to pay 50% of the cost of health insurance coverage by eliminating health care coverage for retired judges and elected officials specified in the bill who are elected after November 1, 2010. Specifies this elimination would not have an impact on currently elected or appointed officials, but would be prospective by affecting those elected or appointed after November 1, 2010. Approved by full Senate 2/24/10.

Nebraska LB 403 Prohibits participation in the Judges Retirement System unless the employees is a U.S. citizen of qualified alien lawfully present in the U.S. Signed into law by Governor 4/8/09.

Nebraska LB 414 Provides that from  July 1, 2009, until July 1, 2014, a judge shall contribute an additional one percent of his or her monthly compensation to the judges retirement fund. Increases fund fee from $5 to $6 during same period. Signed into law by Governor 5/19/09.

Judicial Retirement Plans/Pensions: Northeastern States

Maine HB 650 & SB 184 Implements the recommendation of the Judicial Compensation Commission that members of Maine’s judiciary with retirement contributions earned in the Legislative Retirement Program be allowed to fully transfer these contributions to the Judicial Retirement Program. Requires any member who transfers retirement contributions from the State Employee and Teacher Retirement Program or the Legislative Retirement Program to pay the costs to have the contributions transferred to the Judicial Retirement Program. Signed into law by Governor 6/4/09.

Maine HB 1120 Brings various public employees retirement systems, including the Judicial Retirement Program, into IRS compliance. Specifies Judicial Retirement Program as a governmental qualified defined benefit plan pursuant to Sections 401(a) and 414(d) of the Internal Revenue Code and such other provisions of the Internal Revenue Code and United States Treasury regulations and other guidance as are applicable. Details vesting, use of forfeitures, benefits, etc. in a manner to comply with the Internal Revenue Code. Signed into law by Governor 2/23/10.

New Hampshire SB 1512 Allows judges who resign from office to elect to receive a deferred retirement benefit under the judicial retirement plan. Approved by full House 3/3/10.

New Hampshire SB 357 Authorizes the judicial retirement plan to deduct a health insurance premium contribution from allowances. Approved by full Senate 2/17/10.

New Jersey SB 2 Provides that  new members of the Judicial Retirement System (JRS) will not have a non-forfeitable right to receive benefits upon the attainment of five years of service credit. Signed into law by Governor 3/22/10.

Judicial Retirement Plans/Pensions Week

Most states have retirement systems or accounts within existing systems specifically for judges. All states and localities (for some limited jurisdiction judges) have been forced to reexamine their retirement and pensions systems for public employees in general, and those for judges in particular, in order to address the recent economic collapse. This week, we will be looking at state-level legislation acted upon (i.e. more than simply introduced) in 2009/2010 that addresses these issues, starting with the Northeastern states.

House considers “informing” Chief Justice Georgia is not a “democracy”

Most states allow their chief justices to offer State of the Judiciary addresses to the legislature or legislative and executive branch leaders.  (A collection of the 2010 State of the Judiciary speeches and archive of past ones is available here.)

Georgia did so via a formal resolution (HR 1682) inviting Chief Justice Carol Hunstein to “address a joint session” on March 16. The Chief Justice did so and in her address noted, “The separation of powers is the very bedrock of our nation’s democracy” and, citing Judge Learned Hand, that “If we are to keep our democracy, there must be one commandment: Thou shalt not ration justice.”

The reference to “democracy” did not sit well with several members of the House, at least 6 of whom introduced a resolution (HR 1770) on March 26 to “inform Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Carol W. Hunstein that the State of Georgia is a republic and not a democracy.”

However, in his January State of the State address, Governor Sonny Perdue made three separate references to the U.S. and/or Georgia as being a “democracy”.

No word on any similar resolution having been introduced for his references.