Mess with my pench, I'm gone

No one likes having their expected salary and benefits cut, yet there's still something of a particularly Rhode Island patina to this story in today's ProJo:

PROVIDENCE — About a third of the state’s judges will retire all at once if the legislature adopts Governor Carcieri’s proposal to slash judicial pensions by the amount of Social Security benefits they’re due to receive, the head of a state judges’ association predicts.

By the end of the current fiscal year, 23 of the state’s 59 judges will be eligible to retire with pensions equal to either 75 percent or 100 percent of full pay, a courts spokesman said.

And the “vast majority, if not all,” of those 23 judges will retire rather than lose annual Social Security payments estimated to be at least $20,000 per year, said District Court Judge Elaine T. Bucci, president of the Rhode Island Trial Judges Association. She said she hasn’t spoken to each judge, but she said, “Why wouldn’t they retire? That’s a big number.”

Bucci warned that such a large exodus would have a devastating effect on the courts. “I think we would have to come to a dead stop — it would be that significant,” she said. “That would affect everyone: litigants, lawyers, defendants and the criminal justice system where people are entitled to speedy trials.”

Bucci said Carcieri’s proposal “doesn’t seem fair” because judges have been paying into the state retirement system and the Social Security system for years. “In essence, they really are taking the Social Security payment benefit away from the judges,” she said.

Also, Bucci emphasized that she expects state government to lose money if budget Article 35 passes because the state would have to make pension payments to new retirees while hiring new judges. “It would not help the budget in any way, shape or form,” she said.

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