Monday, November 17, 2008
Judge William Pounders to Retire From Superior Court
Judicial Benefits Ruling Will Determine Timing, Jurist Says
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William Pounders told the MetNews Friday he intends to retire from the court by the end of next year.
The timing of his departure, Pounders said, will be determined by further developments with respect to local judicial benefits, which were declared unconstitutional by the Fourth District Court of Appeal recently in Sturgeon v. County of Los Angeles.
“If the benefits terminate, I will retire at that time,” the judge explained. If the Court of Appeal ruling is overturned, or if the benefits are retained through legislation, he will remain through the end of 2009, Pounders said.
He is the first judge to openly predicate retirement plans on the Sturgeon ruling. Pounders, who is 69 and was appointed to the Los Angeles Municipal Court in 1983, explained that he is basically “working for those benefits,” because his combined pensions as a retired judge and retired state deputy attorney general would exceed his $178,789 state salary.
As a member of the Judges’ Retirement System, Pounders earned incentive payments for having remained on the bench five years past his retirement date. But now that he has completed 25 years of service, he explained, the local benefits, which last year amounted to more than $46,000 to those judges who contributed the maximum to their 401(k) plans, are the only financial incentive he has to remain on the court.
Under the current program, the county allows Los Angeles Superior Court judges to participate in its “MegaFlex” benefits program, which allows employees to receive additional taxable income equal to 19 percent of salary, or benefits costing the county an equal amount. It also gives each judge a “professional development allowance” and a 401(k) match of up to four percent of the judge’s salary.
The Court of Appeal, however, ruled Oct. 10 that those benefits are “compensation” within the meaning of Art. VI, Sec. 19 of the California Constitution and thus can only be authorized by the Legislature.
While most California trial judges receive some type of county benefits, the amounts are generally much smaller outside Los Angeles County.
Pounders, a native of Ohio, was appointed to the Los Angeles Municipal Court by then-Gov. George Deukmejian in 1983 after 14 years in the state Attorney General’s Office, the last four as a senior trial attorney in the Criminal Division. He was elevated to the Superior Court by Deukmejian in 1985.
A Los Angeles resident since the age of 15, he studied mathematics at Occidental College, served in the Air Force for three years after graduating in 1961, worked two years for an insurance company before enrolling at Loyola Law School, and graduated in 1969.
As a longtime trial judge in the Criminal Justice Center, he has handled a number of high-profile cases, including the McMartin Preschool case. Pounders presided over the 1990 trial in which Raymond Buckey and his mother, Peggy McMartin Buckey—whose mother founded the Manhattan Beach school—were acquitted on 52 counts of child molestation.
The jury deadlocked on 13 additional charges against Raymond Buckey. A second trial before another judge resulted in another hung jury, and the remaining charges were dismissed at the prosecution’s request.
He recently sentenced former Compton laborer Juan Manuel Alvarez to 11 consecutive life prison terms for triggering a Metrolink commuter train crash that killed 11 people.
His retirement plans, Pounders said Friday, do not include sitting on assignment or private judging. He will probably work with nonprofit groups, in particular the Humane Society, he explained.
For the time being, he commented, he is content to remain where he is.
“I really love it,” he said. “I enjoy the work.”
Copyright 2008, Metropolitan News Company