Arizona Supreme Court smacks down Arizona’s lawless legislature, again


Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

PensionsOur lawless legislature has lost yet another case in court, this time over the Elected Officials Retirement Plan (specifically retired judges). This is the second time in recent years that the Arizona Supreme Court has struck down as unconstitutional attempt by Tea-Publicans in the Arizona legislature to reduce benefits to retirees of public employee pension plans. I am sure the editorial board of the Arizona Republic will have a sad over this ruling.

Howard Fischer reports, AZ Supreme Court: Judges’ pensions can’t be cut:

State lawmakers cannot balance the budget by limiting pension benefit increases for retired judges, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The justices said a voter-approved section of the state constitution makes public pension plans a contractual relationship. More to the point, that provision says benefits “shall not be diminished or impaired.”

Justice Robert Brutinel, writing for the unanimous court said that language applies not just to what retired judges were getting at any one time. He said it also means lawmakers cannot tinker with already existing formulas that determine how much those benefits will increase each year.

Thursday’s ruling puts a damper on efforts by legislators to sharply restrain the obligations of the state to finance existing public pensions. But it does not bar lawmakers from setting new rules for those who have not yet become judges.

Judges are members of the Elected Officials Retirement Plan.

* * *

In 2011, though, lawmakers, with the blessing of Gov. Jan Brewer, enacted a formula for calculating benefits that resulted in just a 2.47 percent benefit increase that year and no increases in 2012 and 2013. And that same law contains other calculations which could constrain future benefit increases to less than 4 percent.

Several retired judges sued. When a trial judge sided with them, the state sought Supreme Court review.

Read the Opinion Here.


  1. There is a serious defect in the pension law which governs judges pensions. Suppose that the stock market is at 12,000 (which it was in 2008) and it goes to 6,000 in 2009 (which it did) pensions do not go down despite the loss of fund value.

    Then, suppose it goes back up to 12,000 (which it did), then pensions go up because of the increased value. These pensions are sky high as a result of this tremendous error. The other result is that it is draining the fund, endangering the pensions of firefighters and policemen who have worked many years but have not quite reached retirement.

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