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Scheibel Succeeded in Pension Rights Appeal for New York Supreme Court Justices

July 28, 2015

Eliza M. Scheibel (Associate-White Plains) prevailed in the appeal before to the New York Appellate Division, Third Department on behalf of three New York Supreme Court justices denied retirement benefits under a November 2013 policy adopted by the Administrative Board of the Courts. While required to retire at age 70, justices can be “certificated” for three additional two-year terms by the board. However, the 2013 policy denies certification to any justice already collecting retirement benefits for prior judicial service in the New York state court system unless the justice agrees to forfeit those benefits. Wilson Elser commenced an action against the Administrative Board on behalf of three justices who were subject to the policy. Eliza took a position based on two provisions of the New York State Constitution, and the statutes implementing those constitutional provisions, one regarding the standards for certificating Supreme Court justices for post-retirement service and the other establishing the sanctity of earned retirement benefits. The Appellate Division declared the Administrative Board’s policy to be “illegal and contrary to law” on three grounds: (1) the policy was preempted by a the New York statute protecting earned retirement benefits, (2) the policy imposed a limitation on certificated justices that did not apply to non-certificated justices, and (3) the policy added a requirement for certification that is not found in the constitutional or statutory provisions that authorize the certification of retired justices. The Administrative Board of the Courts has publicly stated that it will appeal the Appellate Division order to New York’s court of last resort, the Court of Appeals. 

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