Judges: hike “court fees” to fund our benefits

Phoenix voters recently passed two pension reform ballot measures aimed at curbing benefits for new city employees. Although the union-supported plans were more cosmetic tinkering than meaningful actions, they shed light on seriously underfunded and economically unsustainable retirement plans. 

Now we hear that the judiciary wants to be spared from similar reforms. The issue was dire enough to bring Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Rebecca Berch and Maricopa County Superior Court Presiding Judge Norm Davis down the street to the state legislature to urge the Arizona Senate Finance Committee to exempt judges from a bill that would create a more streamlined 401(k) style retirement plan for future Arizona elected officials — which includes the judiciary.

The Elected Officials’ Retirement Plan (EORP), the most generous of Arizona’s public pension systems, is significantly underfunded and carries a high price tag for taxpayers. To keep the program in place for future recipients, the judges came up with a bit of mathematical wizardry — increased court fees —  to subsidize the benefits of future elected officials and judges. These outrageous mandatory surcharges, among the highest in the nation, already add an incredible  83% on top of imposed fines and penalties. Fees, fines and surcharges assessed against criminal defendants are statutory and are imposed statewide. The 23-page fee schedule can be seen here.

The daily reports, the judges provided few specific details during Wednesday’s hearing on the ultimate cost of their plan. They also declined to provide details to a reporter after the hearing. A group representing the judges plans to meet privately Monday with legislators who are pushing for pension reform to craft a deal without public input.

“I’m not here to talk about the details,” Justice Berch told the committee. “Frankly, I think the details ought to be hashed out not in a committee meeting but in a private meeting afterwards.”

The news report also states that for the fiscal year that ended June 30, public funds paid into the trust for elected officials totaled $21.7 million, while contributions from politicians themselves totaled $6.8 million.

A knotty problem indeed.  And one that should not be shouldered by those folks engaged in already costly court proceedings.  The judges and other politicos might just have to chip in a bit more to ensure their own futures.

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7 Responses to Judges: hike “court fees” to fund our benefits

  1. eubykdisop says:

    2009 Salaries for Justices of the Supreme Court of Arizona

    Chief Justice – $160,000
    Associate Justices – $155,000

    http://sunshinereview.org/index.php/Arizona_state_government_salary#cite_note-courts-8

    2009 Arizona Average Employee Earnings

    $40,910 annually

    http://www.ehow.com/info_7737321_average-income-arizona.html

    Figures vary, depending on the source, but the ratio of Justice’s earnings to those of an average Arizona employee remains about the same.

    401(k) return on investment is usually about 2% to 3%.

    It would seem that between their salary and a simple, conventional 401(k), that the Arizona Supreme Court should do quite well and much better than the average Arizona employee. I don’t think that the Arizona Supreme Court would suffer any hardships with that arrangement. Do you?

    And I don’t think that the people of Arizona should pay higher court costs to guarantee the retirement income of people already making $155,000 to $160,000 per year. If the members of the Court are unwilling to set aside a portion of their significant earnings for their retirement, that is a personal problem and not a problem to be remedied by the people of Arizona.

    I might add that, unlike law enforcement officers and fire fighters, the Arizona Supreme Court never has to put life and limb on the line in the course of discharging it’s duties.

  2. Seen It All says:

    The judges display the typical elitist mindset. They are entitled to private legislative meetings to discuss their preposterous demands and are untouchable. The fees imposed by the courts are already outrageous. Some of those surcharges are used to fund “training seminars” at lavish resorts.

  3. Maggie says:

    What hypocrisy! And these people decide our fates in courtroom situations? I hope the legislators give their arrogance the boot.

  4. Braveheart says:

    As evidenced by the haughty attitude of Chief Justice Rebecca Berch, the judges must have gotten an infusion of chutzpah when they were fitted for their robes!

    • eubykdisop says:

      Chutzpah! Haven’t heard THAT for a long time, LOL! Good word, though. Avoids some of the less genteel terms essentially meaning the same thing! ;-)

  5. LEO IN TSN says:

    Ahhhh yes, the AZ Supremes with their own unique sounds. Lest we forget, this is the same group of magpies who illegally pulled a labor relations case out of thin air when they leapt between the citizens of AZ and justice to shield a state employee on the infamous Independent Redistricting Commission. The employee had been caught in innumerable acts of fraud and other violations of state law & policy and was fired for same, and they decided she should stay and continue. So they created their own (il-)legal case where none had existed, and went hip-hopping across the stage to save her.

    They are the same injustices who recently commuted the death sentence of a murderer who doused a two-year-old little girl with gasoline and lit her on fire. They felt the act was too heinous and too depraved to warrant the death penalty.

    They are the same injustices who recently vacated the death sentence of a murderer who broke into the home of his estranged girlfriend to await & kill her, and when her little boy came home from school, he tortured the little boy and beat him to death just for practice. Then, when the woman’s little girl came home from school, he tortured her and beat her to death too, over the body of her little brother. Then when the woman came home from work, he tortured her over the bodies of her children. He proceeded to beat her to death with such violence that he broke the baseball bat he was using. He then took the broken bat and impaled her with it. The AZ Supremes felt this was not heinous enough nor depraved enough to warrant the death sentences.

    These are the ones who want their own personal private pension fund, paid for by the innocent future victims of their depraved senses of injustice. Perhaps we should keep these things in perspective when we call and email our state legislators about the pension demands of the AZ Supremes and their buddies.

    God bless all of the innocent murder victims and the families who have been and will be victimized by these untouchable wizards. God bless America.

  6. OMG says:

    Are you kidding me????

    Why should they be in any different position than anyone else? Who is the hell do they think they are? And then to have the balls to suggest that the details should not be discussed in public but in private?? It should not be discussed at all!

    Sounds like the same group who screwed Andy Thomas and others…..

    There is a rotten core in the judiciary system in Arizona, and it STINKS!

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