By Ed Mendel
February 29, 2016

A superior court judge has awarded judges back pay and a pension increase, ruling that a five-year freeze on their salary did not keep pace with average increases in state worker pay, a requirement under state law.

But the state has not agreed to the amount owed judges in the class-action suit filed by a former court of appeals presiding justice, Robert Mallano, shortly before he retired two years ago.

In a filing last week by Mallano’s attorney, Raoul Kennedy of Skadden Arps in Palo Alto, a consultant calculated that superior court judges are owed $14,664, appeals justices $16,782, associate justices $17,898, and chief justices $18,763.

Total back pay for the 1,700 active judges listed last year would be roughly $25 million, which includes 10 percent annual interest awarded by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle in a decision last December.

The state disagreed with the judgment, arguing that the award of specific salaries and pension amounts is “akin to an award of damages” and that ordering the state to pay Mallano’s attorney fees is “procedurally improper” and “unwarranted.”

“The salary amounts cannot be accurate because the salary adjustments, if any, that would be made to judges in accordance with the court’s judgment will vary among individual members of the plaintiff class,” the state said as quoted in Kennedy’s filing. “It is impossible at this point to calculate what those individual figures would be.”

The state filed objections to the court’s draft judgment, and a hearing has been set for March 9.

Changes in pay can affect not only employer and employee contributions to the California Public Employees Retirement System, but also the amount of the pension paid to retirees.

The Mallano decision is briefly mentioned in the annual CalPERS valuations of the two judges retirement systems issued this month for the fiscal year ending last June 30.

To read expanded column, click here.