Supreme Court Justice's Problems Not Likely to Affect Generous Pension

With 20 years of judicial service, Justice Diane Hathaway could get $100K a year pension


In the face of alleged ethics violations ranging from tax fraud to money laundering, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway announced this week that she is resigning.

That does not mean, however, that she will no longer be receiving taxpayer dollars. In fact, it appears that Hathaway can probably look forward to a pension that may be just shy of $100,000 a year.

The Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission has accused Hathaway of fraud, money laundering and "misrepresentations to the commission" for her involvement with a short sale of property.

Hathaway might best be remembered in connection with ads that were run against her opponent Cliff Taylor in 2008. The ads labeled Taylor, who was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, as the "sleeping judge," based on a false claim that he had dozed off while a case was being argued.

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Coupled with a well-orchestrated campaign exhorting Barack Obama supporters to vote for Obama and Hathaway, the sleeping judge ads succeeded. In an upset, Taylor, who is now chairman of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy's board of directors, lost and Hathaway joined the state's highest court.

With Hathaway stepping down, she is eligible for a state pension. According to the Office of Retirement Services, she turned in the required paperwork on Dec. 20.

"We don't have the details yet on her pension," Department of Technology, Management and Budget Spokesman Kurt Weiss said. "It's still being processed."

Nevertheless, the basic formula for computing a Supreme Court Justice’s pension is straight-forward. To determine how much of a pension Hathaway can expect, the state will use a simple formula: multiply the number of years she served by her salary and a multiplier; which in this case is 3 percent.

Hathaway has 20 years of service in the court system, dating back to 1993 when she began serving as Wayne County Circuit Court Judge, after being elected to the post in 1992. The salary figure used is the employee’s final salary, which in Hathaway’s case was the $164,610 annual figure she made as a Supreme Court Justice.

As with all employees, several specific aspects of Hathaway’s employment history could potentially alter her pension. However, based on the general formula used for judges, it appears that her pension will likely be in the neighborhood of $98,766 per year.

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A “bottlenecker” is someone who uses the power of the government to limit competition in the market and artificially boost their own profits. Bottleneckers use a variety of methods to achieve their goals, including tax loopholes, regulations, occupational licensing requirements, minimum wage laws and many more. The end result when these special interest bottleneckers succeed is fewer choices and higher prices for consumers, fewer job opportunities for workers and less innovation throughout the economy.

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