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BERNARD J. GOODHEART ET AL. v. HONORABLE DICK THORNBURGH (07/20/88)

decided: July 20, 1988.

BERNARD J. GOODHEART ET AL., PETITIONERS
v.
THE HONORABLE DICK THORNBURGH, IN HIS CAPACITY AS GOVERNOR OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA ET AL., RESPONDENTS



Original Jurisdiction in the case of Bernard J. Goodheart et al. v. The Honorable Dick Thornburgh, in his capacity as Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania et al.

COUNSEL

Henry T. Reath, with him, Judith N. Renzulli, Duane, Morris & Heckscher, for petitioners.

Jules S. Henshell, Deputy Attorney General, with him, Susan J. Forney and John G. Knorr, Senior Deputy Attorneys General, Andrew S. Gordon, Chief Deputy Attorney General, Chief, Litigation Section, and LeRoy S. Zimmerman, Attorney General, for respondents, State Employees' Retirement Board and State Treasurer.

C. Clark Hodgson, Jr., with him, Ursula B. Bartels, Stradley, Ronon, Stevens & Young, for respondent, General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Representative John Kennedy, Chairman, for Amicus Curiae, Citizens for the Commonwealth.

President Judge Crumlish, Jr., and Judges Doyle, Barry, Colins, Palladino, McGinley and Smith. Opinion by President Judge Crumlish, Jr. Judges Craig, MacPhail, Doyle, Barry, Colins, Palladino, McGinley and Smith did not participate in the decision in this case.

Author: Crumlish

[ 118 Pa. Commw. Page 77]

The Honorable Bernard J. Goodheart et al.*fn1 filed a petition for review in the nature of mandamus and for declaratory judgment, asking this Court to declare unconstitutional those portions of the 1974 State Employees' Retirement Code, 71 Pa. C.S. §§ 5101-5956 (1974 Code), which eliminated certain enhanced retirement benefits for members of the Commonwealth judiciary appointed to the bench after its effective date.

After sustaining the preliminary objections of the respondent General Assembly and State Treasurer, and overruling the preliminary objection of the State Employees' Retirement Board (Board), we directed that this case proceed to argument on the merits. The petitioners' and Board's motions for summary judgment are now before us. Because the other members of this Court have an interest in the outcome of this case, disposition of these motions falls to the remaining judge who, having been elevated to the bench before the 1974 Code changes, is not affected by them.

The facts giving rise to this controversy are set forth in the opinion accompanying our disposition of the preliminary objections, Goodheart v. Thornburgh, 104 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 385, 522 A.2d 125 (1987), and do

[ 118 Pa. Commw. Page 78]

    not bear repeating. Suffice it to say the 1974 Code eliminated certain options whereby judges could contribute to the state employees retirement fund at a higher percentage of salary in order to receive proportionately higher benefits. A 1983 amendment to the Code increased the contribution rate for employees from five to 6.25 percent of gross salary. 71 Pa. C.S. § 5505.1.

It is these provisions which the parties in their respective motions for summary judgment, supported by affidavits, ask us to review. Of course, summary judgment will only be granted when there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Matthews v. Konieczny, 515 Pa. 106, 527 A.2d 508 (1987).

Petitioners seek a declaration that the changes in the Retirement Code, eliminating enhanced benefits coverage and increasing the employee contribution rate, are unconstitutional because they impair the independent functioning of the judiciary by providing less than adequate compensation, Pa. Const. art. V, § 16(a).

Compensation of the Judiciary

Article V, Section 16(a) of our Commonwealth's Constitution provides:

(a) Justices, judges and justices of the peace shall be compensated by the Commonwealth as provided by law. Their compensation shall not be diminished during their terms of office, unless by law applying ...


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