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Elimination of benefit for judges explained

Chief Justice Leroy R. Hassell Sr. defended yesterday a decision to eliminate payments for unused sick and vacation days for retiring district court judges.

Hassell told the Virginia Judicial Council that elimination of the payments was in the context of the $8 million reduction the court system must make in the 2008-10 biennium.

In looking for ways to cut costs, he discovered that the payments, which averaged more than $30,000, had not been authorized by the legislature and were a benefit no other state employees received, Hassell said.

The payments had been made from money that had been budgeted but not paid in the delay between the departure of judicial department employees and the hiring of their replacements.

Those amounts are now applied toward the $8 million the system must eliminate, Hassell said.

“We are not going to lay off employees so we can make these payments to the judges,” he said.

A bill related to the elimination of the payments was introduced this year along with a budget amendment to restore them, but they were defeated.

Hassell said most of the $8 million reduction in expenditures will come from a delay in filling vacancies that will be extended from 90 days to 180 days.

By Alan Cooper

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