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House panel backs pension at 60 for appellate judges

 

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By JIM WALLS

Jan. 28, 2016 — Georgia’s appellate court judges could retire at age 60 under a bill passed out of a House committee Wednesday.

House Bill 508 sponsored by Rep. Barry Fleming would lower the retirement age from 65 for the state’s seven Supreme Court justices and 15 Court of Appeals judges. Those appellate judges can retire after 10 years at about $125,000 a year — 75 percent of their current salary.

Superior Court judges can already retire at 60 after 10 years.

Fleming said the lower age would encourage the best young lawyers to take a pay cut to leave a lucrative law practice for a judicial appointment.

“If you are 30-something years old and Gov. Deal puts you on the Court of Appeals or Supreme Court, quite often folks will give 20 or 15 years of service to the state of Georgia,” he said. “Then at age 60 they would be able to retire like a Superior Court judge can and go back and have maybe 10 or 15 more years .. of a law practice.”

Fleming noted a recent trend of younger judges being appointed to the appellate bench in Georgia. The bill, he said, would bring the retirement age “in line with the reality of the age of our judges who are being appointed to the appellate courts today.”

The bill would cost about $400,000 this year, Fleming said. After that, the new retirement age would cost the pension system about $625,000 for each judge who retired at 60.

The House Retirement Committee voted unanimously in favor of the bill at Wednesday’s meeting.

 

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