Cases & Deals

Los Angeles County defeats third constitutional challenge to judicial benefits

Clients Los Angeles County

Jones Day represented Los Angeles County ("County") in a closely watched case challenging the constitutionality of the County's payment of so-called "local judicial benefits" to Los Angeles Superior Court judges.

A Los Angeles resident taxpayer seeking to invalidate the provision of benefits to Los Angeles Superior Court judges sued the County in 2006. The trial court granted the County's request for summary judgment, but the court of appeal reversed, concluding the legislature had not sufficiently prescribed judicial benefits. In response to that reversal, the legislature enacted SB X2 11, which requires counties to continue to offer sitting judges whatever benefits the counties had provided as of July 1, 2008, but permits counties to terminate these benefits at the conclusion of a judge's term of office and with at least 180 days' notice to the affected judges and to the State Administrative Office of the Courts.

On remand from the appellate court, and following the legislature's passage of SB X2 11, the trial court granted summary judgment in the County's favor, and the court of appeals affirmed, finding that SB X2 11 sufficiently prescribed the benefits to be provided to judges. The court noted that although SB X2 11 offered an interim remedy, that remedy would most likely give rise to further challenges if it was not supplanted by a more comprehensive response.

In 2014, the plaintiff filed a new lawsuit complaining that the legislature had not taken any further action over the course of the past five years. The case was transferred to Orange County Superior Court, which sustained the County's demurrer with prejudice and without leave to amend, finding that the issue had already been decided. The California Court of Appeal unanimously affirmed that decision, and the California Supreme Court denied review on March 9, 2016.

Sturgeon v. County of Los Angeles, 167 Cal. App. 4th 630 (2008); 191 Cal. App. 4th 344 (2010); 242 Cal. App. 4th 1437 (2015); No. S231977 (Cal.)

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