A Letter from the President of New York County Lawyers' Association

2015-07-08 15:09

On June 8, 2015, NYCLA adopted a report and resolution calling for changes to Section 60 of New York’s Retirement and Social Security Law, which governs death benefits for judges.  For members of the New York State judiciary, there is what many refer to as a “death gamble” – if a judge dies while in office, his or her beneficiaries receive a more modest benefit compared to what is received by beneficiaries of judge who dies while retired.  Additionally, the beneficiaries of a judge who dies in office may not elect certain benefit options available to judges who retire. Legislation passed in 2000 eliminated this problem for some in public service, but judges were not included in this bill.  Further, judges have not been able to take advantage of certain early retirement opportunities offered to other non-judicial employees of the Unified Court System because they have been excluded as a group from the relevant statutes and early retirement incentives due to an anomaly in Section 60 of the state’s Retirement and Social Security Law. The report states that “many in the organized bar are not aware of this unfair and draconian structure” and noted that the Office of Court Administration has made several attempts in recent years to remove the gamble for judges. Quoting from the report by the NYCLA Ad Hoc Working Group on the Death Gamble, “These unfair pension provisions may be disincentives for many to undertake judicial service, or to continue judicial service when they are at the height of their career.”  We believe that judges should receive the same consideration as all others in public service and have this gamble removed, and hope that other bar associations will also join us in calling for this change.  

NYCLA’s Judicial Section and Civil Court Practice Section have each adopted resolutions on the matter, and the NYCLA Board of Directors Resolution adopted on June 8 urges amendments that would allow state-paid judges and justices to have beneficiaries receive a pension instead of a death benefit upon the jurist’s demise while serving. We salute the Task Force and the Sections for having the courage to speak up on the Death Gamble, and produce a report that is now on its way to the House of Delegates of the New York State Bar Association in November.  We hope that others rally behind this effort, and create an environment where our judiciary can serve the public good with the same protections for their families as other public servants.

To download this report click here or visit: NYCLA.org and click on Publications/Board Reports



Carol A. Sigmond