California Owes at Least $36M to More Than 3,000 Judges, Retirees

From labor disputes cases to labor and employment publications, for your research, you’ll find solutions on Bloomberg Law®. Protect your clients by developing strategies based on Litigation...

By Jay-Anne B. Casuga

More than 3,000 California judges, judicial retirees and their beneficiaries are owed about $36 million in unpaid raises and benefits from the state, a California appeals court affirmed ( Mallano v. Chiang , 2017 BL 112254, Cal. Ct. App., 2d Dist., No. B272124, unpublished 4/5/17 ).

“We are nearing the point where judges and pensioners will receive the long overdue amounts to which they are entitled,” Raoul Kennedy, of counsel at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in Palo Alto, Calif., said in an April 6 statement.

Kennedy is one of the attorneys representing a class of judges and retirees in a lawsuit against California to recover raises they claimed they should have received, but didn’t, from fiscal years 2008-2009 through 2010-2011, and 2013-2014 through 2015-2016. They alleged that the unpaid salary increases also lowered judicial pension payments.

Assuming that 1,600 judges were active during the class period, the California Court of Appeal said April 5 they are owed more than $23 million in back salary and interest. An additional $13 million in unpaid benefits and interest is owed to judicial retirement beneficiaries, assuming there are 1,800 members in that class and that “each beneficiary received benefits in an amount equal to 50 percent of the salaries owed to active judges,” the court said.

State law requires mandatory judicial raises based on the average percentage salary increase for state employees during a given fiscal year, the appeals court said.

It rejected the state’s argument that judicial salary increases can be limited in fiscal years when state employee salaries are effectively decreased. Such decreases had occurred during the years at issue in the case because of mandatory furloughs and collectively bargained leave programs implemented by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to address a state fiscal emergency.

A spokeswoman for the California State Controller’s Office told Bloomberg BNA April 6 that the office is studying the opinion and “will be discussing the matter with the other state defendants and the Attorney General’s Office.”

Justice Victoria M. Chavez wrote the unpublished opinion, with Justices Brian M. Hoffstadt and Laurie D. Zelon concurring.

James Schaefer, William Casey and Pramode Chiruvolu of Skadden also represented the judges. California Assistant Attorney General Julie Weng-Gutierrez and Deputy Attorneys General Jennifer M. Kim and Jonathan E. Rich represented the state.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jay-Anne B. Casuga in Washington at jcasuga@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Christopher Opfer at copfer@bna.com

Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Request Labor & Employment on Bloomberg Law