Court asked to reconsider pension denial Former Gov. Hughes says he's being singled out

November 04, 1995|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

Former Gov. Harry R. Hughes is asking Maryland's highest court to reconsider its decision to deny him part of his pension, arguing that he is being singled out unfairly because judges have collected the same benefits.

The Court of Appeals ruled Sept. 19 that Mr. Hughes was not entitled to collect Employee Retirement System (ERS) benefits earned in his previous positions as a legislator and transportation secretary while he was governor.

The ruling said Maryland's judges also should be prohibited from collecting ERS pensions earned in previous state posts while they are on the bench.

In papers asking for the reconsideration, John F. X. O'Brien, Mr. Hughes' lawyer, said the court assumed incorrectly that judges were not receiving pensions.

He included an Oct. 18, 1995, letter from the State Retirement Agency's executive director confirming that the agency paid out pension benefits to judges while they collected their salaries.

The benefits are paid to some judges "based on the earlier advices of counsel," wrote Peter Vaughn, executive director of the agency. Mr. Vaughn said he could not say how much pension money has been paid to sitting judges, when the practice began, or how many judges have received it.

Mr. O'Brien said he knows of at least eight such judges.

Harriet Granet, assistant attorney general for the State Retirement Agency, said benefits are paid only to those who were elected or appointed officials when they were appointed to judgeships and only to judges appointed before July 1, 1982, when the pension laws were changed.

Mr. Hughes, 69, sued the State Retirement Agency in Baltimore Circuit Court in 1993, challenging its denial of an estimated $250,000 he would have collected while governor from benefits earned in previous state service. He was governor from 1979 to 1987.

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