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AGO 1955 No. 154 - October 31, 1955
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

JUDGES' RETIREMENT SYSTEM ‑- SUPPLEMENTAL OASI COVERAGE.

Supplemental OASI coverage may not be extended to members of the Judges' Retirement System under existing law.

                                                                  - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                                October 31, 1955

Honorable Arthur B. Langlie
Governor of the State of Washington
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 55-57 No. 154

Dear Sir:

            We thank you for your letter in which you enclosed a plan submitted by the President-Judge of the Superior Court Judges' Association for the extension of OASI coverage to members of the Judges' Retirement System.

            You have requested our opinion as to the legality of that plan.  In our opinion supplemental OASI coverage may not be extended to members of the Judges' Retirement System under existing law.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Section 5, chapter 4, Laws of 1955 Ex. Sess., provides in part as follows:

            "* * * Each pension or retirement system established by the state or a political subdivision thereof is hereby authorized to submit for approval by the governor a plan for extending the benefits of title II of the social security act, in conformity with applicable provisions of such act, to members of such pension or retirement system.  * * *"

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            Chapter 2.12 RCW provides for the retirement of judges of both the supreme and superior courts.  Article IV, § 13, of the state constitution provides that the salaries of superior court judges are paid one‑half by the county and one‑half by the state.  Under RCW 2.12.060, deductions from the salary of superior court judges are made only from that portion payable from the state treasury.

            The Judges' Retirement System is unique in that it has no board of trustees or governing body of any kind.  The salary deductions are fixed by law and the amount paid into the fund by the state is five percent of the combined salaries of all supreme court and superior court judges.  The state guarantees the solvency of the fund and the legislature makes biennial appropriations for this purpose.

            Section 3 (4) of the 1955 act provides in part as follows:

            "The governor, before authorizing a referendum, shall require the following conditions to be met:

            "* * *

            "(f) The state legislature, in the case of a referendum affecting the rights and liabilities of state employees covered under the state employees' retirement system and employees under the teachers' retirement system, andin all other cases the local legislative authority or governing body, shall have specifically approved the proposed plan and approved any necessary structural adjustment to the existing system to conform with the proposed plan."  (Emphasis supplied)

            The structure of the existing Judges' Retirement System has been designed by the legislature.  It seems logical that any adjustment to that system should, if necessary, also be made by the legislature.

            In the letter you enclosed from the President-Judge of the Superior Court Judges' Association, reference was made to chapter 4, Laws of 1955, Ex. Sess.  He then stated in the first paragraph:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            "This act enables counties or other political subdivisions of the state to extend the basic protection of Federal Old Age and Survivors' Insurance to persons now members of a state retirement plan."

            We are unable to agree that this is applicable to members of the Judges' Retirement System.  Section 5 (1) of the 1955 act provides in part:

            "Each political subdivision of the state is hereby authorized to submit for approval by the governor a plan for extending the benefits of title II of the social security act, in conformity with applicable provisions of such act to those employees of such political subdivisions who are not covered by an existing pension or retirement system."  (Emphasis supplied)

            The proposal presents a series of problems:

            1. Who is authorized to submit a plan to the governor on behalf of the Judges' Retirement System?

            2. The provision fo rlocal referendums contained in § 3 (3) of the act cannot apply to the Judges' Retirement System.  The language contained in that section is not broad enough to include this system.  This means that it is impossible to say that each board of county commissioners must approve the proposed plan under section 3 (4) (f) of the act.  Who then must approve the plan and by authority of what section of the act?

            3. We encounter the same problem if we attempt to treat all the judges asstate employees:  Where is the statutory designation of authority to approve the proposed plan under § 3 (4) (f) of the act?

            4. Even if some authority could be found for the local referendum, what provision could be made under such an arrangement for those members of the Judges' Retirement System who serve on the state supreme court?

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            5. Several of the superior court judges serve two or more counties.  What could be done if the board of county commissioners of one county approved the proposed plan and the board in the other county voted against the proposal?

            6. Who should make the deductions from the judges' salaries, the state or county?

            From an examination of chapter 4, Laws of 1955, Ex. Sess., and the foregoing considerations, we can only conclude that the legislature did not intend that OASI coverage be made available to members of the Judges' Retirement System at this time.

            It is our opinion that if the members of the Judges' Retirement System desire that Federal Social Security coverage be extended to them on a supplemental basis remedial legislation is required.

            We hope the foregoing comments will prove helpful.  We are returning the enclosure you sent along to us.

Very truly yours,

DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General

ANDY G. ENGEBRETSEN
Assistant Attorney General

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