December 2008 • Vol. 28 No. 11 | An E-Publication of the Los Angeles County Bar Association

Trustees Give Amicus Support to Judges in Sturgeon v. County of Los Angeles

Issue concerns nonsalary benefits for Los Angeles Superior Court judges.

Trustees voted unanimously to write a letter in support of the petition for review in Sturgeon v. County of Los Angeles.

As Richard Rothschild, chair of LACBA’s Amicus Briefs Committee, conveyed to trustees at the November 19 board meeting, Los Angeles County treats Superior Court judges as county employees for purposes of providing nonsalary benefits. These benefits, according to the court of appeal, are worth as much as $46,000 per year. The court in Sturgeon v. County of Los Angeles held that the county’s payment of these benefits violates Article VI, Section 19 of the California Constitution, which provides that the California Legislature shall “prescribe compensation for courts of record.” The court concluded that the county could not add to the legislatively determined salary ($172,000).

The county asked LACBA to write a letter in support of petition for review in the California Supreme Court. As the county argues and the court of appeal acknowledges, the legislature has permitted counties to provide these extra benefits. The legal argument is which interpretation should prevail: the court of appeal’s plain meaning interpretation of Article VI, Section 19 versus the county’s argument that the courts should defer to the legislature’s interpretation of the constitution. 

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