Thursday, March 22, 2018

McGlynn v. State of Calif.

In this mandamus proceeding, six judges who were elected to the superior court in mid-term elections in 2012, but who did not take office until January 7, 2013, maintain they are entitled to benefits under the Judges’ Retirement System II (JRS II) as in effect at the time they were elected, rather than at the time they assumed office. This is a matter of considerable importance to these judges because, on January 1, 2013, JRS II became subject to the provisions of the California Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act of 2013 (PEPRA), which amended virtually all state employee retirement systems to begin addressing the state’s enormous unfunded pension liability and returning these systems to actuarially sound footing. Among other things, PEPRA increases employee contributions, provides for fluctuating contribution rates based on market performance and actuarial projections, and bases the amount of monthly pension payments on an employee’s final three years of compensation, rather than on only the final year.

We conclude, as did the trial court, that the judges did not obtain a vested right in JRS II benefits as judges-elect, but rather obtained a vested right to retirement benefits 1 Government Code section 75500 et seq. 2 Government Code section 7522 et seq. 2 only upon taking office, after PEPRA went into effect. We also conclude PEPRA’s provisions pertaining to fluctuating pension contributions do not violate the nondiminution clause of the California Constitution (Cal. Const., art. III, § 4), nor do they impermissibly delegate legislative authority over judicial compensation (Cal. Const., art. VI, § 19). We therefore affirm the judgment.

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