A Maricopa County judge is considering whether retired elected officials, who have the most generous public retirement system in Arizona, will again start receiving cost-of-living raises to their pensions.
Superior Court Judge John Buttrick has scheduled closing arguments for May 21 in a lawsuit brought against the Elected Officials’ Retirement Plan. Buttrick, who is conducting a bench trial, listened on Monday to evidence from both sides and asked lawyers to draft additional legal briefs by the end of the month.
The suit was filed last September after the 2011 Arizona Legislature made sweeping changes to shore up the state’s underfunded pension systems, including EORP, and to lower taxpayers’ contributions to the retirement trusts.
The lead plaintiff in this case is former Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Fields, who retired in June 2007 and receives a $125,264 annual pension.
The pension plan for elected officials, which includes judges, allows them to retire after 20 years of service and receive 80 percent of their final annual salary. Until last year, they also received regular cost-of-living raises that allowed some elected officials to make more money in retirement than when they were in office.
The Legislature last year lowered and then suspended those cost-of-living raises for retired elected officials until their pension fund is healthy again. Fields, however, contends lawmakers’ action was illegal because the state Constitution prohibits public retirement benefits from being diminished or impaired.