FRANKLIN CIRCUIT COURT TO CLARIFY ENDING DATE OF SENIOR JUDGES PROGRAM

 

The Franklin Circuit Court is reviewing a motion for a declaratory judgment regarding the expiration date of the Senior Status Judges program.  Several judges who are eligible for admission to the program are seeking a ruling that clarifies the correct ending date.
Is it 2007 or 2009?   It appears that this question is raised by what we conclude is an error by the Revisor of Statutes who included the phrase “(Effective until July 1, 2007).? In the title heading of the statute, KRS 21.580.

 

That phrase in the title heading conflicts with the actual wording of the statute as amended, which states:

 

“2) The Senior Status Program for Special Judges created by this section shall be open to any member who is a judge in office on the June 24, 2003, and who subsequently retires as a Senior Status Special Judge on or before January 31, 2009.?
 

We believe that the actual wording of the statute overrides the comments of the Revisor of Statutes.

Brandon Ortiz has reported  about the pending declaratory judgment lawsuit in the Herald Leader article.

 

Read full text of the statute by going to: KRS 21.580 Senior Status Program for Special Judges

By Brandon Ortiz – Herald Leader article

A class-action lawsuit representing every judge in the state is asking a judge to declare that the senior status judge program sunsets in 2009.
Because of conflicting language in the law, there is confusion over when the work program for retired judges expires. The title of the law states it is effective until July 1, but the text says it expires Jan. 31, 2009.
If Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas D. Wingate rules that the program ends this summer, it could lead to a spike in judicial retirements. In exchange for working part-time for five years, senior judges get a sizable boost to their retirement pensions.
A recent Herald-Leader analysis found that average pension enhancement per senior judge is at least $30,000.
The lawsuit was filed by judges Roderick Messer, Steve D. Hurt and Doughlas M. George. They are represented by James E. Keller, a retired Supreme Court justice, and Donald Cetrulo, a former director of the Administrative Office of the Courts. Cetrulo could not be reached for comment.
The lawsuit names as respondents the Board of Trustees of the Kentucky Judicial Form Retirement System and Chief Justice Joseph Lambert.
Louisville lawyer Sheryl Snyder said the board will take a neutral stance. But he said it will ask for clarification so it “knows what its obligations are.”
“The practical question is whether the judges need to retire by June 30, 2007, in order to be eligible for the program, or if the program will allow them to retire between ’07 and ’09 and be eligible for the program,” he said. “That’s the question we’re going to ask the court to resolve, and ask the court to resolve it quickly.”
Through a spokeswoman, Lambert referred questions to Snyder.
The program doubled in size last year to 45 senior judges, not counting seven who had completed their service.
Although the board is officially neutral, retirement system director Donna Stockton-Early said it is operating under the assumption the program will expire in 2009. After the program expires, senior judges will keep their enhanced pensions as long as they complete their service, she said.
“I don’t think you can stop everyone’s benefits,” she said of the senior judges.
A Herald-Leader analysis in February estimated that the program will cost the retirement system at least $1.57 million this year, close to four times more than the $420,000 legislators approved in 2000.
 

At least 29 judges are eligible for the program, and 24 more will become eligible within two years.
The retirement system commissioned an actuarial analysis showing that the program’s cost is $575,000. That analysis, however, relied on assumptions from 2005, when half as many judges were in the program.
 

KRS 21.580 Senior Status Program for Special Judges. (Effective until July 1, 2007).
 

(LawReader comment:  the effective date was added by the Revisor of Statutes, and conflicts with the clear statement of the law as amended in section 2 below.)
 

(1) As a pilot project to determine the effectiveness of using senior retired judges to
combat backlog and delay in Kentucky courts, there is hereby created a “Senior
Status Program for Special Judges.” The program shall be implemented as follows:
(a) KRS 21.400(1) and any other provision in KRS Chapter 21 to the contrary
notwithstanding, a member who retires at a time when combining his total
years of judicial service credit and his age equals or exceeds the number
seventy-five (75), may elect, within ninety (90) days following retirement, to
participate in the “Senior Status Program for Special Judges,” if he complies
with the provisions of this subsection. In that event, the member shall be
entitled to a service retirement allowance, commencing at the member’s
normal retirement age, payable monthly during his lifetime in an amount equal
to five percent (5%) of his final compensation multiplied by the number of
years of his judicial service, not to exceed twenty (20) years of judicial service
at the five percent (5%) factor, not to exceed one hundred percent (100%) of
final compensation. “Final compensation”, notwithstanding any provision to
the contrary, for all members retiring under any provision of KRS 21.345 to
21.570 or this section, or similar statutes governing the same positions, as
defined in KRS 21.400 shall be based on a period of thirty-six (36) months.
Any nonjudicial time shall be counted as is otherwise provided in KRS
Chapter 21, but in no event shall service retirement allowance exceed one
hundred percent (100%) of final compensation.
1. In the event the retiring judge elects to retire as a “Senior Status Special
Judge” under this subsection, he shall commit to serve, upon
appointment by the Chief Justice of the Commonwealth, as special judge
for one hundred twenty (120) work days per year for a term of five (5)
years without compensation other than the retirement benefits under this
subsection. The Senior Status Special Judge may agree to work more
than one hundred twenty (120) days in any year within the five (5) years
of service; however, the Senior Status Special Judge shall be
compensated as otherwise provided by law, in addition to his retirement
benefits, for any days served in excess of one hundred twenty (120) in
that year. If the Senior Status Special Judge has not served a total of six
hundred (600) days within the five (5) year period outlined in this
subsection, the Chief Justice shall require the Senior Status Special
Judge to serve at no additional compensation to the Senior Status
Special Judge, until the six hundred (600) day period is served by the
Senior Status Special Judge. The Senior Status Special Judge and the
Chief Justice may agree in writing to serve less than the one hundred
twenty (120) days in any one (1) or more of the five (5) years; however,
any of the days not served in a given year shall be served at the end of
the five (5) year period set forth in this subsection.
2. Should any member electing to retire under the Senior Status Program
for Special Judges fail, when ordered by the Chief Justice to serve the
requisite number of days not to exceed one hundred twenty (120) days a
year for the five (5) year period outlined in this subsection, unless
otherwise agreed in writing, he shall no longer be eligible for benefits
computed under this subsection and shall return to the benefits otherwise
provided under this chapter.
3. Subject to Section 110(5)(b) of the Kentucky Constitution, the Chief
Justice shall give due regard, when practical, to the desirability of
appointing Senior Status Special Judges to serve within their judicial
region as defined by the regional administration charter.
(b) The inviolable contract provisions of Kentucky law, KRS 21.480, shall apply
during the period of time that KRS 21.580 is effective; however, no other
provisions of 2000 Ky. Acts ch. 305 shall be considered subject to an
inviolable contract of the Commonwealth.
(c) Nothing contained in this section shall be construed to invalidate provisions in
the current law which require a penalty for retiring before the normal
retirement age.
(2) The Senior Status Program for Special Judges created by this section shall be open to any member who is a judge in office on the June 24, 2003, and who subsequently retires as a Senior Status Special Judge on or before January 31, 2009.
 

(LawReader comment:  We believe it is clear from Seciton (2) above that 2009 is the ending date for the program.)
 

Effective: June 24, 2003
History: Amended 2003 Ky. Acts ch. 128, sec. 6, effective June 24, 2003. — Amended
2002 Ky. Acts ch. 258, sec. 1, effective July 15, 2002. — Repealed 2000 Ky. Acts ch.
305, sec. 4, effective July 1, 2007 — Created 2000 Ky. Acts ch. 305, sec. 1, effective
July 14, 2000.
Legislative Research Commission Note (6/24/2003). 2000 Ky. Acts ch. 305, sec. 1,
created KRS 21.580, which established the Senior Status Program for Special Judges.
Section 4 of the same Act repealed KRS 21.580 effective July 1, 2007. Thereafter,
2002 Ky. Acts ch. 258, sec. 1, amended KRS 21.580 to change the retirement date
from June 30, 2007, to January 31, 2009, and 2003 Ky. Acts ch. 128, sec. 6,
amended KRS 21.580 to extend eligibility for the program to judges in office on June
24, 2003. Neither of these Acts specifically addresses the repeal set out in the 2000
Act.
 

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