Supreme Court refuses to hear retroactive pension hike case
In a victory for all public retirees, the California Supreme Court on April 13 refused to hear the County of Orange’s appeal seeking to reverse retroactive pension increases given to retired Orange County sheriffs’ deputies.
The refusal to hear the case means the decision made earlier this year by the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles stands. That court ruled the 2001 labor agreement retroactively giving Orange County deputies a 3 percent at age 50 formula for retirement is valid and does not violate the provisions of the California Constitution.
The County of Orange sued the association in 2008, trying to retract the 3 percent at 50 benefit, which allows deputies who have worked for 30 years to retire at age 50 with 90 percent of their salaries. Although Orange County supervisors approved the benefit in 2001, seven years later, the Board of Supervisors – now with some new members – argued that granting retroactive benefits violated state law because retiring public safety employees were paid extra compensation for work they had already performed.
The Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, other unions and retiree organizations fought to protect the sheriffs’ increase because if the deputies lost the case it was feared that other retroactive benefits, such as cost-of-living allowances, could be jeopardized.
CSEA Retirees, Inc. had supported the deputies’ union as a friend of the court, along with CalPERS and Jerry Brown, in his former capacity as State Attorney General.
“This is truly good news,” said Roger Marxen, president of CSEA Retirees, Inc. “However, there can and probably will be further attempts via the political route. We should be proud of our participation in fighting the attempt to reduce vested rights to a pension system.”
Losing the fight means the county will now have to pay its own $2 million-plus legal bill and may also be on the hook for the deputies’ legal bills.
“The County emphasizes its current difficult financial situation and the ‘ruinous fiscal irresponsibility’ of the prior board of supervisors,” read the 29-page appellate opinion issued Jan. 26. “Imprudence, however, is not unconstitutional.”