Pension cuts for judges and prosecutors unconstitutional, special salary court finds

A special salary court on Wednesday ruled that pension cuts imposed on retired judges and prosecutors are unconstitutional and that pensions must return to the same levels as in 2012. The burden that the ruling will place on the state budget cannot be precisely calculated at this time, since pensions vary depending on the rank and years of service of each individual at retirement.

The court’s first ruling in 2018, which will serve as a precedent for all remaining cases, concerned the pension cuts imposed on former Court of Audit president Nikolaos Aggelaras. The next three cases to be considered are those of former Court of Audit vice-president Evangelos Dais, retired supreme court judge Stamatis Giakoumelos and retired appeals court judge Angeliki Smyrniou.

The retired justices claimed that the cuts to their pensions were as high as 75 pct, with laws passed in 2016 alone imposing a 40 pct reduction, while those passed in 2011 and 2012 were contrary to several provisions of the constitution.

The panel of nine judges making up the salary court, with Council of State Vice President Mary Sarp presiding, accepted this argument by seven votes in favour, two against, finding that it violated constitutional provisions stating that the pensions of retired judges must not be substantially different from the salaries of colleagues still on active duty, securing them a dignified standard of living.

While accepting the legitimacy of pension cuts for judges in order to improve the country’s fiscal situation, the court said that such cuts must retain a fixed proportional relationship between pensions and salaries in order to be constitutional.

The salary court has referred the cases to the Court of Audit, so that it may set the amount of the back-dated pension payments that retired judges are to receive.