Alliance of California Judges
July 23, 2013

Last week we told you about several requests for public information awaiting a response from the AOC. We are pleased to tell you that ACJ director Judge Kent Hamlin received a timely response from AOC staff member Chad Finke on July 18. The entire email string is set forth below, with the most recent response at the top. Although the document speaks for itself, we deem it important to highlight a few items.

In addition to his judicial retirement, the new Administrative Director of the Courts is paid $216,699.60 per year. He also receives vision and life insurance at no cost to him. This vision and life insurance perk is also given to every employee of the Supreme Court, Courts of Appeal, AOC and the Habeas Corpus Resource Center. While these costs may be considered minimal, we are well beyond the point where taxpayers should be footing the entire bill for extra perks for governmental employees.

Also of note is the fact that 15 of the highest ranking employees of the AOC continue to enjoy a pension benefit funded entirely by the taxpayer -- the employee contributes nothing. Newly appointed judges are contributing about 15% of their pay to fund JRS III, a benefit they may not receive until they reach age 65 after a minimum of 20 years service. AOC employees may collect their taxpayer-funded "2% at age 55" benefit anytime after they have completed five years of service.

As indicated in Mr. Finke's response, this outrageous perk was granted to select AOC employees by former Chief Justice Ronald George. In September of last year, the current Chief Justice took steps to deny this indefensible perk by eliminating it for those hired or promoted after October 1, 2012. The obvious question is, why did it take so long to put a stop to this pension giveaway? Moreover, is there some reason why those hired before October 2012 continue to enjoy this special taxpayer-funded benefit? Remember, while these select few have been enjoying this perk, hundreds of valuable court employees have been shown the door and countless local courthouses have closed their doors for business due to a lack of funds.

Finally, it is worth noting that, after Judge Hamlin pointed out that all of the information he had requested would be contained in judicial administrative records, it was not deemed necessary to punt the request to Judicial Council Rules Committee Chairman, Justice Harry Hull. How refreshing.

We will continue to keep you posted as responses are received for still outstanding requests for public information.

Directors, Alliance of California Judges

 


From: Finke, Chad [mailto:Chad.Finke@jud.ca.gov]
Sent: Thursday, July 18, 2013 10:19 AM
To: Hamlin, William Kent
Cc: Pubinfo; Jahr, Steven; Hull, Harry
Subject: FW: Inquiry Regarding Salary and Benefits as Administrative Director
Judge Hamlin,

Below please find our responses to your request. Each component of your request is set forth verbatim before its respective response for ease of reference. Assuming that the responses below answer all of your requests, it does not appear that any reference to Justice Hull is necessary.

What is your annual compensation for serving as director of the AOC?

$216,699.60 (after 4.62% furlough reduction).

Are you receiving benefits during your employment by the AOC, beyond those included in your judicial retirement package, including health, dental, etc.?

Beyond those included in his judicial retirement package, Judge Jahr receives the following benefits: vision and life insurance.

If so, are those provided entirely at taxpayer expense, or do you contribute something for those benefits, including dependent benefits, if applicable?

For all employees of the Supreme Court, Courts of Appeal, AOC, and HCRC, vision and life insurance are paid for by the employer. Vision is approximately $8.64 per month and life insurance is approximately $6.90 per month.

Finally, I understand that the 30 highest paid employees at the AOC pay none of the cost of their employment benefits, perhaps even including dependent health coverage, nor do they contribute towards their retirement. Is that accurate?

This is not accurate. Please see the chart below for a list of employer/employee-covered contributions:

Shared contribution Employer-only contribution Employee-only contribution
· Medical
· Dental
· Retirement* · Vision
· Life Insurance · 401k/457 plans
· Medical/dental dependent care reimbursement accounts
· Long term disability insurance
· Long term care
· Group legal service plan
· Supplemental life insurance

*As of July 12, 2013, 15 of 19 AOC executive-level employees do not contribute toward their retirement, as enacted by a resolution issued by then-Chief Justice Ronald George on February 1, 2007, which applied to all executive employees of the Supreme Court, the Courts of Appeal, the AOC, and HCRC. In September 2012, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye issued an amended resolution dissolving the benefit for employees hired or promoted into an executive level on or after October 1, 2012. The Chief’s resolution also provided that any prospective increase in the employee’s share of the contribution will be borne by the affected executive-level employees, including the 15 who do not currently contribute toward their retirement.

Is it also the case that employees of the AOC receive lifetime benefits upon retirement after ten or more years of service?

State employees—which includes employees of the Supreme Court, Courts of Appeal, AOC, and HCRC—are subject to Government Code section 22873, which provides for full employer contribution toward health benefits after ten years of state service at the time of service retirement.

For employees of the Supreme Court, Courts of Appeal, AOC, and HCRC hired into CalPERS-covered employment on or after January 1, 1985, the state will contribute a prorated share toward health premiums upon retirement:

Credited Years of Service Percentage of Employer Contribution
5 50
6 60
7 70
8 80
9 90
10 100

If so, can you please advise what benefits they receive? I'm not asking for a dollar amount for specific employees -- just the formula by which these benefits, including any retirement allowance, are calculated.

Upon retirement and with at least credited five years of service, employees of the Supreme Court, Courts of Appeal, AOC, and HCRC are eligible to receive the following benefits:

· Medical
· Dental

Retirement allowances are calculated based on years of service and age. For specific calculations, state member benefit formula charts are available directly on the CalPERS website, under the State Miscellaneous & Industrial Members category. We have attached a copy of the chart for your reference.

Chad Finke Director Office of Appellate Court Services/Court Operations Special Services Office, Judicial and Court Operations Services Division Judicial Council of California - Administrative Office of the Courts 455 Golden Gate Avenue San Francisco, CA 94102-3688 415-865-8925, Fax 415-865-4329,chad.finke@jud.ca.gov www.courts.ca.gov
"Serving the courts for the benefit of all Californians."

From: Hamlin, William Kent  Sent: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 4:48 PM To: 'Finke, Chad'

Cc: Pubinfo; Jahr, Steven; Hull, Harry
Subject: RE: Inquiry Regarding Salary and Benefits as Administrative Director
Mr. Finke,



Thank you for your reply promising records responsive to my inquiry by approximately July 22.

I wonder if you might advise, however, what information I have requested that is “not set forth in judicial administrative records” that would require Justice Hull to become involved. It would appear that all of the information I have requested either will be found in payroll and personnel records or in AOC policy manuals that denote employee benefits. While those records may require some redaction in order to protect the personal privacy interests of the involved employees, I do not understand how any aspect of my request “would require an explanation or discussion of policymaking,” which I understand to be Justice Hull’s role under AOC Policy 2.8, as described in your most recent update to the Judicial Council of May 30. Nor does the inquiry “present ‘why’ questions, seeking explanations or rationales for policy and process decisions,” as described in the December 2012 report to the Council.

I look forward to the responsive records by the July 22 date or, in any event, by the end of the month. To the extent those records do not contain all of the information I have requested, I trust that you will provide an explanation of what portions of my inquiry call for information not contained in judicial administrative records and a timeline during which I might then expect a response from Justice Hull.

Thank you for your assistance.

W. Kent Hamlin
Judge of the Superior Court
________________________________________________
From: Finke, Chad Sent: Monday, July 08, 2013 4:16 PM To: 'khamlin@fresno.courts.ca.gov' Cc: Pubinfo; Jahr, Steven; Hull, Harry Subject: FW: Inquiry Regarding Salary and Benefits as Administrative Director

Judge Hamlin,

I am the AOC director responsible for administering the agency’s program for responding to requests for judicial administrative records and information, and Judge Jahr referred your request below to me for response. We have identified judicial administrative records responsive to your request, and we anticipate making those available by approximately July 22, 2013.

To the extent your request seeks information not set forth in judicial administrative records, we are referring it to Hon. Harry Hull for consideration, per AOC Policy 2.8 (Responding to Requests for Judicial Administrative Records and Information).

Thanks,
Chad

Chad Finke Director Office of Appellate Court Services/Court Operations Special Services Office, Judicial and Court Operations Services Division Judicial Council of California - Administrative Office of the Courts 455 Golden Gate Avenue San Francisco, CA 94102-3688 415-865-8925, Fax 415-865-4329,chad.finke@jud.ca.gov www.courts.ca.gov
"Serving the courts for the benefit of all Californians."

From: Hamlin, William Kent [khamlin@fresno.courts.ca.gov] Sent: Friday, June 28, 2013 11:22 AM To: Jahr, Steven Subject: Inquiry Regarding Salary and Benefits as Administrative Director
Dear Judge Jahr:

News articles published shortly after your appointment as Administrative Director of the AOC discussed a possible salary range for your position, but at least one article quoted you as saying the issue of salary never came up during the interview and appointment process. A quick search of the California Courts website and various news articles published after your appointment has not provided the information I am seeking, so I am requesting your assistance.

What is your annual compensation for serving as director of the AOC? Are you receiving benefits during your employment by the AOC, beyond those included in your judicial retirement package, including health, dental, etc.? If so, are those provided entirely at taxpayer expense, or do you contribute something for those benefits, including dependent benefits, if applicable?

Finally, I understand that the 30 highest paid employees at the AOC pay none of the cost of their employment benefits, perhaps even including dependent health coverage, nor do they contribute towards their retirement. Is that accurate? Is it also the case that employees of the AOC receive lifetime benefits upon retirement after ten or more years of service? If so, can you please advise what benefits they receive? I'm not asking for a dollar amount for specific employees -- just the formula by which these benefits, including any retirement allowance, are calculated.

I realize that some of this information may have to come from your Human Resources Department, and I will understand if the responses do not come immediately. I would hope, however, that this inquiry is not shuffled off to Justice Hull or otherwise met with some requirement of a formal records request under Rule 10.500. This information should be readily available and, in light of the AOC's interest in accountability and transparency, should be provided without a more detailed request for records. I could not imagine that these questions pose an unreasonable administrative burden if directed to the employees who have access to the requested information. Please advise if you feel otherwise.

Thank you in advance for your assistance and cooperation.

Sincerely,

W. Kent Hamlin
Judge of the Superior Court, County of Fresno

 
Alliance of California Judges
1817 Capitol Ave., Sacramento, CA  95811

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