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Judicial Watch Files Lawsuit against Los Angeles County for Allowing Judges to “Double-Dip” on Benefits, Perks 
County Judges amass over $100 Million in Duplicate Benefits at Taxpayers’ Expense

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch, the public interest group that fights government corruption and judicial abuse, announced that it filed a lawsuit today against Los Angeles County for allowing individual Los Angeles County judges to amass more than $35,000 annually in cash allowances from the county to pay for benefits and perks they are already receiving from the state.  Public disclosure of these payments was first made by The Los Angeles Times.


“The payment of ‘local judicial benefits’ by the county serves no useful, lawful purpose, provides no additional public benefit, and otherwise constitutes an unconscionable waste of taxpayer funds,” Judicial Watch argued in its complaint.


According to the California State Constitution, “[t]he Legislature shall prescribe compensation for judges of courts of record.”  In 1997, the California State Legislature enacted a law providing that “[o]n and after July 1, 1997, the state shall assume sole responsibility for the funding of court operations,” including salaries and benefits packages.  From that point forward, judges were no longer county employees.  However in clear defiance of the California State Constitution and California law, since 1998, Los Angeles County has provided at least $100 million in taxpayer funds to county judges in the form of local judicial benefits. 


For example, even though judges receive a full benefits package from the state, Los Angeles County also provides them $27,324 annually in cash allowances to purchase on a pre-tax basis additional health, life, disability and other benefits.  Given that there are no requirements as to how the money must be spent, judges may either purchase the benefits or keep the cash allowance as taxable income.  The county dishes out an additional $4,200 annually to judges for “professional development.”  However, judges are reportedly allowed to pocket the money and then charge the state for these “professional development” items and services.


“For the last eight years Los Angeles County has swindled taxpayers out of more than $100 million and it must stop now,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.  “Not only is this a colossal waste of the taxpayers’ hard-earned money, but it is also highly illegal.”


In March, Judicial Watch provided a draft of its complaint to the Los Angeles County officials involved requesting they immediately terminate payment of “local judicial benefits.”  The county refused, forcing Judicial Watch to take legal action.  Judicial Watch filed its lawsuit with the Superior Court for the State of California, County of Los Angeles on behalf of a county resident and taxpayer.  However, given the fact that the lawsuit involves benefits paid to judges of that court, presenting an obvious conflict of interest, Judicial Watch is requesting that the case be transferred to another county.


A copy of Judicial Watch’s complaint can be found by clicking here.