Is Reducing Pension Benefits of Judges Who Entered Office After March 1 1974 Constitutional ?
In Goodheart v. Casey, 521 Pa. 316, 555 A.2d 1210, aff'd on reconsideration, 523 Pa. 188, 565 A.2d 757 (1989), judges of the courts of common pleas challenged the constitutionality of the 1974 amendments to the State Employees' Retirement Code, 71 Pa. C.S. 5101-5956, which reduced pension benefits for judges who entered office after March 1, 1974.
The supreme court stated:
(1) to maintain the judiciary as a co-equal branch of government, the legislature has a duty under the constitution to provide adequate compensation for judges;
(2) there can be but one adequate amount of compensation for each judge of the same court;
(3) compensation includes retirement benefits.
Thus, the court held that judges who entered office after March 1, 1974, were to be given an opportunity to pay back into the system sufficient funds to permit the conversion of their retirement package into the same benefits received by judges who entered office before March 1, 1974. Id.