Cloutier v. New HampshireAnnotate this Case
The State appealed a superior court's ruling that RSA chapter 100-C (Supp. 2011) (the Judicial Retirement Plan) violated Part I, Article 23 of the New Hampshire Constitution. Petitioner Raymond Cloutier was a retired probate court judge. Six intervenors were retired supreme, superior, probate and district court judges. Petitioner submitted a written request to the Board of Trustees of the New Hampshire Judicial Retirement Plan (board) asserting that his retirement allowance was erroneously calculated pursuant to RSA chapter 100-C, and that he was entitled to benefits under the retirement statutes that were in effect when he was appointed to be a judge. Following a hearing, the trial court granted summary judgment for the petitioners, concluding that the application of RSA chapter 100-C to judges who accepted their positions before its enactment results in impairment of contract rights in violation of the New Hampshire Constitution. However, the trial court rejected Petitioner's assertion that the ten percent and one percent salary increases authorized in 2003 and 2005 should be included in calculating their benefits under the prior retirement statutes. The State raised two issues on appeal: (1) whether the trial court erred in ruling that RSA chapter 100-C violates Part I, Article 23 of the New Hampshire Constitution; and (2) in the event the trial court’s ruling was upheld, whether RSA chapter 100-C is unconstitutional only as applied to judges who met the service and age requirements for retirement as of January 1, 2005. Petitioners cross-appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in ruling that the 2003 and 2005 salary raises are not properly included as "currently effective annual salary" when calculating their retirement benefits. Upon review, the Supreme Court was persuaded by the board’s position that salary adjustments were authorized for the limited purpose of compensating judges for their ten percent earnable compensation contribution required under the new retirement plan. The adjustments may not be characterized as "effective annual salary" for purposes of calculating benefits under the prior retirement statutes. The Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded the case for further proceedings.