Judicial Retirement Plans/Pensions 2011: Midwestern States

Illinois HB 146 Caps the highest salary for annuity purposes, final rate of earnings, final average compensation, and final average salary for current members, participants, and participating employees of the Judges’ Retirement System at $106,800 (Current Circuit Judge’s Salary: $178,835), Authorizes that amount to be annually increased by the lesser of 3% or one-half of the annual percentage increase in the consumer price index-u. Requires employee contributions to also be based on these capped amounts.

Illinois HB 1447 Provides that, for persons who first become participants of Judges’ Retirement System after the effective date of the Act: (i) the automatic annual increases in participant and survivor annuities shall be at the rate of 3% or one-half the annual unadjusted percentage increase (but not less than zero) in the consumer price index-u, whichever is less, of the originally granted retirement annuity (rather than at the rate of 3% or the annual unadjusted percentage increase in the consumer price index-u, whichever is less, of the annuity then being paid) and (ii) the annual increases in highest salary for annuity purposes and final average salary shall be at the rate of the lesser of 3% or one-half the annual unadjusted percentage increase (but not less than zero) in the consumer price index-u (rather than at the rate of the lesser of 3% or the annual unadjusted percentage increase in the consumer price index-u).

Illinois HB 1959 Allows persons who first became or become members of Judges’ Retirement System on or after January 1, 2011 to elect to participate in a self-managed program of retirement benefits instead of the program of reformed retirement benefits currently offered. Provides that a self-managed plan shall authorize a participant to accumulate assets for retirement through a combination of employer and employee contributions that may be invested at the participant’s direction in mutual funds, collective investment funds, or other investment products and used to purchase annuity contracts. Requires the Judges’ Retirement System to make the self-managed plan available within 6 months after the effective date of the Act. Provides that, to the extent that the changes made by the Act are determined to be a new benefit increase under the new benefit increase provisions, the changes are exempt from the 5-year expiration provision.

Illinois HR 31 Urges the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) to (i) competitively bid for an auditing firm to conduct an audit of the Judges’ Retirement System and all other State-funded Pension and Retirement Systems, (ii) report the auditing firm’s findings to the General Assembly and Governor within 1 year after the adoption of the resolution, and (iii) publish the auditing firm’s findings on the COGFA website.

Illinois HR 101 Directs the Auditor General to conduct an audit of the Judges’ Retirement System and all other State-funded retirement systems to discover (i) what the anticipated savings to those systems will be as a result of the pension reforms enacted last year and (ii) whether any employees or officers of those systems have made false or materially misleading public statements about those anticipated savings.

Illinois HR 149 Directs Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability study the impact of time and interest on the underfunding of the Judges’ Retirement System and all other State-funded retirement systems.

Illinois SB 29 For those already members of Judges’ Retirement System, adds provisions concerning the annuity rate of accrual, annuity calculations, automatic annual increases, and survivors’ annuities. With respect to later entrants (members who first become members on or after July 1, 2011), adds provisions concerning creditable service, conditions for eligibility, amount of annuities, automatic annual increases, survivors’ annuities, and refunds. Defines “salary”, “earnings”, “compensation”, and “wages” for periods of service on and after July 1, 2011 for any Judges’ Retirement System member.

Illinois SR 83 Urges the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) to (i) competitively bid for an auditing firm to conduct an audit of the Judges’ Retirement System and all other State-funded Pension and Retirement Systems, (ii) report the auditing firm’s findings to the General Assembly and Governor within 1 year after the adoption of the resolution, and (iii) publish the auditing firm’s findings on the COGFA website.

Indiana HB 1048 Establishes a defined contribution plan (plan) as an option for new state employees. A state employee who does not elect to become a member of the plan becomes a member of the public employees’ retirement fund (PERF). Requires the PERF board of trustees (PERF board) to establish the same investment options for the plan that are available for the investment of a PERF member’s annuity savings account. Provides that a member’s contribution to the plan is 3% of the member’s compensation and is paid by the state on behalf of the member. Provides that the state’s employer contribution rate for the plan is equal to the state’s employer contribution rate for PERF. Provides that the amount credited from the employer’s contribution rate to the member’s account shall not be greater than PERF’s normal cost with any amount not credited to the member’s account applied to PERF’s unfunded accrued liability. Establishes a minimum state employer contribution of 3% of the members’ compensation. Establishes a five year vesting schedule for employer contributions, and requires a member who terminates state employment before the member is fully vested to forfeit amounts that are not vested. Requires that the PERF board specify by rule the interest rate credited to a participant’s contributions for the judges’ retirement system. Provides that a judge or a magistrate who is a participant in the judges’ retirement system and who purchases prior PERF service credit waives credit for the PERF service only for the amount of PERF service purchased.  Urges the legislative council to assign to the pension management oversight commission the study of whether to create a defined contribution plan as an option for new employees of political subdivisions that participate in PERF and for new employees who are eligible to become members of the teachers’ retirement fund.

Indiana SB 12 Requires, after December 31, 2011, that an employer of participants in the judges’ retirement system submit contributions, reports, and records electronically. Authorizes the PERF board of trustees to establish due dates for contributions, reports, and records submitted by an employer.

Indiana SB 76 Requires that the board of trustees of the public employees’ retirement fund (PERF) specify by rule the interest rate credited to a participant’s contributions for: the judges’ retirement system. Provides that a judge or a magistrate who is a participant in the judges’ retirement system and who purchases prior service credit in PERF waives credit for the PERF service only for the amount of PERF service purchased.

Indiana SB 549 Establishes the Indiana public retirement system (system) to administer and manage judges’ retirement fund, public employees’ retirement fund, and either other funds. Provides that each retirement fund continues as a separate fund managed by the board. Creates a nine member board of trustees (board) for the system appointed by the governor (none need be judges). Establishes transition provisions for trustees/boards of other existing systems. Provides that new hires of the system become public employees’ retirement fund members, unless the system director expressly determines otherwise. Allows the board to establish contribution rate groups for PERF, and removes the requirement that each employer have a separate account within the retirement allowance account.

Nebraska LB 251 Increases court fees by $20. Directs some of additional funds to Retirement Fund for Judges.

Nebraska LB 509 Modifies language in the Judges Retirement Act to clarify that members receive the highest cost-of-living (COLA) method identified in current statutes. Creates new section in the Judges’ Retirement Act that reorganizes current cost-of-living provisions and places all the existing language into one section.

Nebraska LB 679 Provides all new judges elected/appointed after July 1, 2011 are members of the State Employees Retirement System (i.e the State Cash
Balance Plan,) instead of the current judges defined benefit plan.

North Dakota SB 2108 ORIGINAL: For judge’s retirement system, requires member contributions increase by one percent of the judge’s monthly salary beginning with the monthly reporting period of January 2012, and increase annually thereafter by an additional one percent, with the final increase taking place beginning with the reporting period of January 2015. AMENDED: Same, but changes January 2015 date to January 2013.

Wisconsin AB 11 (Special Session) (For prior blog post on subject, see here)

Citing Heller, Illinois legislators consider explicitly permitting judges to carry concealed firearms into courthouses

The U.S. Supreme Court decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, which specifically found an individual right to keep and bear arms, has lead to a massive review of state statutes as they pertain to firearms. Illinois is no exception: it was the case of McDonald v. Chicago that applied Heller to the states via the 14th Amendment. For judges on a more personal level, however, Heller and McDonald may mean more discretion in carrying their own firearms into their courts.

At present, Illinois law and rules of court are relatively silent on whether judges explicitly may (or may not) bring firearms into courthouses or courtroom. The only apparently relevant statute is 720 ILCS 5/24-1. Sections (a) and (b) define the offense of unlawful use of weapons and provide for sentences depending on the particular actions. (a)(4)-(9) in particular deal with the carrying of firearms.

Section 720 ILCS 5/24-1(c) however provides enhanced sentences for carrying a firearm in public places, such as parks and courthouses (defined as “any building that is used by the Circuit, Appellate, or Supreme Court of this State for the conduct of official business.”). Illinois, unlike most states, does not provide elsewhere that such courthouse restrictions do not apply to judges.

HB 1403 and SB 2150, however, would modify the restrictions. Concealed firearms permits would not allow a person to carry into “Any courthouse solely occupied by the Circuit, Appellate, or Supreme Court or a courtroom of any of those courts, or court proceeding.” However “nothing in this Section shall preclude a judge, or State’s Attorney holding a concealed firearms permit, from carrying a concealed firearm within a courthouse.” (emphasis added)

Surrounding states take slightly different tacks with respect to courthouse carrying.

Missouri (§ 571.107 R.S.Mo.) bans firearms generally (and in the same section specifically exempts judges from the ban) in “Any courthouse solely occupied by the circuit, appellate or supreme court, or any courtrooms, administrative offices, libraries or other rooms of any such court whether or not such court solely occupies the building in question…The.. supreme court… may by rule..prohibit or limit the carrying of concealed firearms by endorsement holders in that portion of a building owned, leased or controlled by that unit of government.”

Kentucky’s (KRS § 237.110) has a similar clause banning generally the carrying of a firearm  in “Any courthouse, solely occupied by the Court of Justice courtroom, or court proceeding.” but then (KRS § 237.020) exempts active, retired, and senior status justices and judges with a handgun permit. In fact, Kentucky active, retired, and senior staus judges with a permit may carry “at all times and at all locations within the Commonwealth of Kentucky” exception detention facilities, which specifically “does not include courtrooms, facilities, or other premises used by the Court of Justice or administered by the Administrative Office of the Courts.”

Illinois HB 1403 is in the House Agriculture & Conservation Committee while SB 2150 is currently in the Senate Assignments Committee awaiting designation to a subject matter committee.

Boosting the minimum years admitted to the bar to be a judge

Several weeks ago we looked several states looking to do away with non-attorney judges. Other states are looking at increasing the minimum number of years an attorney must practice law (or at least be admitted to the bar) before becoming a judge. For example, Alabama in 2009 passed a law (SB 28) requiring a minimum number of years to serve on certain courts: 10 for the appellate courts (Supreme, Civil Appeals, Criminal Appeals), 5 for Circuit, 3 for District.

In 2010, Illinois, which currently requires only that a would-be jurist be admitted to the bar, is considering requiring (HCA 57)  a set number of years or practice before reaching certain courts: 15 years for their  Supreme Court, 12 for their Appellate Court, and 10 for their Circuit Court.

Also active this year, New Jersey is considering (SCR 83) increasing from 10 years to 15  its existing minimum  for the Supreme Court, the Appellate Division of the Superior Court (i.e. the state’s intermediate appellate court), and the Superior Court.