Monday, January 23, 2017

Feathering the retirement nests

The President of the Mississippi Bar sponsored a bill to help the judges and justices of the Mississippi Court of Appeals and Supreme Court feather their retirement nests.  State Senator and Bar President Briggs Hopson introduced SB #2908. Copy of bill. The bill states:


AN ACT TO AMEND SECTION 25-11-103, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO REVISE THE DEFINITION OF THE TERM "EARNED COMPENSATION" UNDER THE LAW GOVERNING THE PUBLIC EMPLOYEES' RETIREMENT SYSTEM SHALL INCLUDE ALL REMUNERATION, EXCEPT MILEAGE, PAID TO JUSTICES OF THE SUPREME COURT AND JUDGES OF THE COURT OF APPEALS; TO AMEND SECTION 25-3-35, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, IN CONFORMITY THERETO; TO AUTHORIZE, UNDER CERTAIN CONDITIONS, JUSTICES OF THE SUPREME COURT AND JUDGES OF THE COURT OF APPEALS TO CLAIM AS EARNED COMPENSATION THE EXPENSE ALLOWANCES PAID TO THEM FROM AND AFTER DECEMBER 31, 2003, THAT WERE NOT REPORTED AS A PART OF THEIR EARNED COMPENSATION TO THE PUBLIC EMPLOYEES' RETIREMENT SYSTEM; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
SECTION 1 (k) (iii)  In the case of members of the State Legislature, Justices of the Supreme Court and Judges of the Court of Appeals, all remuneration or amounts paid, except mileage allowance, shall apply....
SECTION 3. Justices of the Supreme Court and Judges of the Court of Appeals may claim as earned compensation under the laws governing the Public Employees' Retirement System the expense allowances paid to them from and after December 31, 2003, that were not reported as a part of their earned compensation to the Public Employees' Retirement System under the following conditions:

(a) The judge or justice must pay to the Public Employees' Retirement System the employee contribution on the expense allowance paid but not reported together with regular interest from the date of the payment of the expense allowance to the date of the payment required by this section.

(b) The employer must pay to the Public Employees' Retirement System the employer contribution on the expense allowance paid but not reported together with regular interest from the date of the payment of the expense allowance to the date of the payment required by this section.


Section 25-3-43 of the Mississippi Code states:

(5) In addition to the regular salary provided by Section 25-3-35 and the mileage reimbursement provided by Section 25-3-41, each Supreme Court Justice and each judge of the Court of Appeals shall receive an expense allowance as specified in this subsection. The expense allowance shall be equal to the maximum daily expense rate allowable to employees of the federal government for travel in the high rate geographical area of Jackson, Mississippi, as may be established by federal regulations, per day, for each day while actually attending to judicial duties in Jackson, Mississippi, not to exceed twenty (20) days per month.

The current rate for federal employees in the Jackson is $142 per day*.  Thus the maximum annual expenses paid excluding mileage would be $34,080.  Any judges who joined the Court of Appeals or Mississippi Supreme Court would be able to include these expenses in the calculations to determine their PERS benefits although the per diem rates have changed over the years.  The salaries for these justices are:

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court............. $159,000
Presiding Justices of the Supreme Court, each.. 154,833
Associate Justices of the Supreme Court, each.. 152,250
Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals............ $147,578
Associate Judges of the Court of Appeals, each. 144,827

The justices and judges of these two courts would be able to boost the compensation used by PERS to determine benefits to nearly $200,000 per year. PERS uses the best four years of compensation to determine benefits.

*$91 per day for lodging and $51 per day for meals.

44 comments:

Anonymous said...

WOW, just wow. I hope this never sees a vote, who is going to audit this to make sure it's accurate, Horne??

Bill Dees said...

This is a good bill. Many of the Justices make half or less of what they could earn in the private sector. The financial sacrifice they make should be acknowledged and provided for in the retirement system.

Anonymous said...

Please explain the difference between these judges and typical state employees that also work out of town on expense accounts?

Anonymous said...

You have to be kidding!

Anonymous said...

Give the judges their special treatment also. Peremptory backdoor machinations to head off assaults on SLRP.

Anonymous said...

If you are a practicing attorney like Hopson is, it makes perfect sense to lavish the states money for the benefit of those who you will be practicing in front of.

Anonymous said...

Isn't this what SLRP is? It would just make a SLRP equivalent bonus into the existing PERS obligation?

Anonymous said...

Maybe they should return to the private sector Dees if they find that service is a financial hardship. They knew what the job paid before taking the position.

Anonymous said...

Corruption. There is so much corruption at the top of our state government. Legislators get special treatment like this too. Also, elected officials get significant additional time added to their service time. Thirty days or six weeks is added to their service time that is about 3.5 years.

Anonymous said...

Many of these people could not make it in the real world. If they could make more in the private sector they would be working in the private sector. Why should they get special treatment just because they can't get a good job?

Anonymous said...

Th legislature is 90% lawyers. They are giving the judges some of the same perks the legislature already has.

Anonymous said...

Might as well put them in SLRP also

Anonymous said...

Drain the Jackson swamp!

Anonymous said...

Who gives two flippin flaps that a "Justice" or an "Appeals Judge" could make more in the private sector. Most all judges were in the private sector prior to going to 'The Bench'. If they didnt plan and prepare for retirement when they were in the private sector why should we, the tax payers, have to support their lack of planning? Judges deserve no more than any other state employee receives. It is by the judges choice they are on 'The Bench' and they being LAWYERS should have known what the benefits are.

Anonymous said...

Its all lawyers taking care of lawyers. I've personally experienced this back in the mid 90's from a prior MS BAR president covering for a metro area lawyer who now advertises relentlessly on the local television channels.

Anonymous said...

I say we let the judges run the ABC warehouse. Not any more crazy that having the State Tax Commission run a liquor warehouse.

Anonymous said...

For the bozo that stated that 90% of the legislature is made up of lawyers -- the correct percentage is around 30% -- look it up!

Anonymous said...

Hell no!

Drain the swamp!

Cut their pay!

Anonymous said...

@ 12:18 For good and bad, the Legislature is no longer 90% lawyers. It's probably more like 30-40%.

Anonymous said...

@1:03 and @2:35 --

If you drain the Jackson Swamp, it will only expose the potholes and broken water mains. That and will give Kenify's Krazies another place to find the bottles, bricks, and rocks.

Preserve Jackson's swamp!

Anonymous said...

This is a good bill. Many of the Justices make half or less of what they could earn in the private sector. The financial sacrifice they make should be acknowledged and provided for in the retirement system.

I'm reminded of an anecdote long about 1994.

When Mississippi College President Louis Nobles was indicted for embezzlement -- but before he absconded from the state wearing a disguise and later tried to swallow poison in a San Francisco hotel -- he retained a lawyer.

That lawyer was Bill Waller, Jr.

Bill Jr. summoned TV crews an other media to Nobles' abode in Clinton.

"Look at these cars," Waller said. "Look at this big boat and this nice house. Louis Nobles doesn't NEED to embezzle anything!"

Yeah.

He got fired a couple days later. And yes, the $159,000 he draws from the state is WAY more than he could make in private practice.

Anonymous said...

That's too funny, 3:27!

And just think, now he's our Chief Justice.

Anonymous said...

3:27 PM

You may be correct about who Waller represented....you are woefully incorrect about how much Waller could generate from a private practice.

Anonymous said...

Bill Dees is absolutely right. We should want to have enough financial incentive to where the best and brightest legal minds want to run. Randolph, for instance, was probably making a million or 2 a year during his hey day. He ran as a matter of public service. He's also an incredibly hard working and bright Justice.

Anonymous said...

Randolph was appointed by his fraternity brother from Ole Miss, Haley Barbour.

Anonymous said...

The old joke Judges are lawyers who couldn't make it in private practice is true in many cases. There are a few who did well and ran for Judge to get out of the rat race or those who came from money. I'm sure most don't spend all of their per diem for expenses why don't they set up an IRA, Roth or regular with the extra money. Maybe a safer bet as PERS might be in trouble down the road,

Anonymous said...

Something sounds wrong. Supposedly all of these people could make much more money in the private sector. They ran as a matter of public service.
Then why in the hell do they think we, the people, should give them more money? I am beginning to suspicion that maybe they can not make it in the private sector or their public service feelings is bullshit.

Anonymous said...

6:02 --

There is much truth in what you say.

Anonymous said...

i say we cut all elected officials' pay until they pull us out of 50th place in virtually every category.

Anonymous said...

I know several Circuit Judges who are now multimillion $ men, especially in the big tort counties, who couldn't afford to pay attention when they were attorneys only several years ago. When I began law school one in south central MS was a milkman. Now he travels with his court administrator and puts his travel on the state dime.

Anonymous said...

Big firm lawyer here. Let me let y'all in on a little secret.

The skill set to making $300k/yr. in Mississippi (the "double" Bill Dees refers to) is 100% different than the skill set to be a good appellate judge. Honestly, the campaigning element of being a judge has far more relevance to compensation than the judging element.

These people got into public service because their skill set is different from the skill set needed to be a rainmaker. Or in a few cases, because they already made their money and basically wanted to retire from a pretty cutthroat industry. Not saying they aren't good judges. But assuming they could walk away from judging and make tons of money in private practice is like assuming a business school professor at Ole Miss could leave and become a millionaire CEO.

Not saying it could never happen, but it's not something you would expect.

Anonymous said...

8:31 provides a nice analysis but doesn't provide any argument for why the judges should be paid more. They signed up knowing the salary. They enjoy the privileges (i.e. regular hours, paid staff, lots of govt holidays, no requirement to generate billings). The way I see it, they are living the life they signed up for. If they don't like it, there are plenty others lined up to replace them.

Anonymous said...

7:55 - one of the reasons (certainly not the only one) that we are 50th is that we don't attract on an everytime basis the best and the brightest to run our state. The pay for most of our elected officials is woefully low - $125k for Gov; $108k for AG; $90k for SOS or Treasurer.

Sure, we have some that offer themselves for office that don't need the money - Barbour, Hosemann, Chaney for example. But imagine if one of the mid-level offices became vacant, what person wants to be appointed SOS or Treasurer for $90k. Sure, there are many that would love to have the job. Me for example. Would be a nice pay raise.

But, to attract a really good quality candidate for such an appointment would require it to be somebody that doesn't need the monthly paycheck.

Then, double that down and realize that getting appointed is not how this happens 98% of the time. You have to run - raise money, give up a year of your life, both money earning and family life - betting on the come.

These Judges though did get taken care of a couple of years ago - we gave them a big damn (relatively) pay raise. The Chief Justice now gets half again what the AG makes.

The problem carries itself down through these agencies in that many of their employees can't make more than they do. Granted, many should not get paid more, but to retain top quality folks in the positions where you do need good capable people it can't be done without paying them decently.

Compare Me This.. said...

Lame-Brains like Bill Dees believe this kind of chicanery is just fine given the fact that these people could actually make more money out on the open market. What the hell difference does that make. Let me help here! NONE!

Next, Dees will suggest that accountants over at the State Department of Audit could make more as CPAs out in the real world so their retirement should at least be doubled. And why stop there? The Ag Secretary might make more if she were farming corn up in Lula.....yep! Ought to be worth at least triple retirement and a new SUV.

Anonymous said...

Back to the article at hand....

Bubba Hopson needs to withdraw this bill.

Most judges have done quite well before they took the bench.

Waller and Randolph were millionaires before they began being judges. Most others are fine too.

Anonymous said...

Tell them to go to work in Madison County!! Hell, they pay their buildings and grounds director almost 90K. If they're female all they need to do is push out a supervisors grandchild and BANG instant 50K a year job.

Why Stop There, Indeed.. said...

With apologies to Merle Haggard, the governor could be modeling "Manly Footwear" out in Bakersfield, making at least a quarter mil.

Anonymous said...

This bill begs the question " Why the judges did not claim the expenses or have their secretaries or clerks claim the expense on their behalf?" Or, better still, why didn't they get a credit card to use exclusively for expenses?

The government can never compete with the private sector except on the levels of either job satisfaction, job security or more time for a private life. A government job can provide added experience and improve a person's visibility to the private sector as a potential asset.

If we are going to elect judges, they shouldn't " run" for office. The public should be given their resume including their law school class placement, community service/charitable work, honorable recognitions, whether they represented private citizens or corporations, and their ratings. I'm willing to pay tax dollars for a website and publication in relevant local newspapers the day before election .Justice should be blind.

Anonymous said...

If the legislature insist on doing this, just start it now and not go backwards. The investment funds have mad3e a lot of money and charging no interest is a crime.

State employees are way underpaid and seldom receive raises.

Anonymous said...

to bill dees; if lawyers take a pay cut to become judges, why is it that dozens of they trip over themselves to run for any judgeship that comes open?mr dees you don't know crap about what it takes to make it in the private practice of law.

Anonymous said...

Our state is in last place. Everyone knows that. Why is it in last place? The state has everything it needs to come out of last place. There has to be something holding us in last place. We have been there a long time.

It is the people we elect that keeps us in last place. They always have their hand out or in someone's pocket. They continually place family, friend, and monetary supporters in comfortable jobs they know nothing about. They lie, cheat, and steal.

Our whole state is following in the footsteps of our capital city and for the same reason. Now who can we blame for what our state has become? We, the people, are to blame. For reasons know only to ourselves we reward the cons, criminals, slackers, and know nothings with some elected position. Then they give themselves a separate group of laws not allowed by tax payers. We give them the power to give themselves raises and benefits. Then we expect them to pull us out of last place.
Dream on.

Anonymous said...

Here is a thought. Run for and win Ms. state bar presidency, run for and win a seat in the state house or senate. Commit tons of state money (which the state doesn't have)to influential judges at no personal expense. This makes these judges love you. Run for the U. S. House or Senate under the good graces of these judges who will always "not support" any candidate. While you are at it, why not include doctors (like your father) in the state retirement plan. Those who have worked years for the state should be up in arms about this.

Anonymous said...

Hell ole Jim Kitchens was a multimillionaire prior to becoming a Supreme Court Justice, I ain't saying he is not a great fella and a smart guy, but I know he doesn't need the extra cash.
On another note, a really good former Rankin County Circuit Ct. Judge was smart, got his undergraduate on a whitey scholarship at JSU, the went to MC Law. He made a great deal of money as a lawyer and served the public as a judge for, I think, only one term and could have been easily reelected. He did it for the right reason, and of course "a little bit/more ego".

Anonymous said...

7:16 - ridiculous. If you want to elect judges, then let them run. If you want to select judges, then appoint them as other officials are appointed. Your theory could be such that the Commissioner of Public Safety, or the ED of the Health Department, or maybe even the President of Jackson State (or any other university) should be 'selected' by putting some folks resumes on a website and letting everybody go vote. Hell, let them do it online like KF's polls he conducts.

If MS continues to insist on electing judges, then remove all the stupid restrictions that the "canons" try to put on them (many of which are constantly ignored without consequence, but that's another story for another day) and let them campaign and run.

If you want to try to get good jurists on the bench, then appoint them like most other states do. Once you get through with that, lets appoint many of the other things we elect (commissioners of insurance, agriculture, transportation, etc.) and hire qualified people to run those departments.

If you want your system for judges, then lets at least move it to selecting the best farmer to be head of agriculture, and the best insurance agent to run that department, based on resumes put on a website somewhere.

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In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.


In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

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If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

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