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McCaffery Gets Generous Pension With Resignation

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- The resignation of state Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery won't come cheap to the taxpayers of Pennsylvania.

A calculation of his pension based on his 20 years of service in the judiciary yields a potential state pension of just over $151,000 a year.

The precise figure, $151,631, is based on the Allentown Morning Call's analysis of State Employees Retirement System records, secured through a right to know request.

The payment could change if McCaffery opts for a lump sum withdrawal of his retirement savings.

State retirement officials said they could not confirm the pension amount until it is finally calculated, but state Senate Democratic leader Jay Costa said judges get a better pension than other state officials because of higher pay and a more favorable formula.

"Their pension is a little different, significantly different, than what rank-and-file members of the General Assembly have," Costa told KDKA political editor Jon Delano.

While legislators make just $82,026 a year plus a per diem, Supreme Court justices make $200,205.

The higher the salary and the longer you serve, the larger the pension you get when you retire, which is why Supreme Court justices can retire on pensions that are nearly three times the average annual income in Pennsylvania.

But whatever the personal benefits, it's been a rough time for the Court.

The conviction and resignation of Justice Joan Orie Melvin was followed this fall by the McCaffery's resignation after he sent porn emails from his personal account to state officials on their office accounts.

With Chief Justice Ron Castille retiring at the end of the year because he has reached the age of 70, the seven-member court will have just five members.

"In effect, we will have two vacancies come January of 2015," noted Costa.

Costa says the governor can appoint interim justices with support of two-thirds of the Senate, but this should wait until after a new governor or a reelected governor takes office in January.

"We should not do it right now. We should wait until January of next year to begin a conversation about who the justices might be as we go forward," said Costa.

These would be interim appointments for one year only, as voters will have a rare opportunity to elect three new justices to replace Castile, McCaffery, and Orie Melvin next year.

Costa, whose Democrats will be needed for any interim confirmation, says, as in the past, interim appointees must pledge not to run for election.

"To allow them to be on the ballot would be inappropriate given the advantage they would have at that point in time," said Costa.

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