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.