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V.I. Supreme Court to Decide if Judge Julio Brady Gets Pension Now or Later

The V.I. Supreme Court will soon decide whether or not V.I. Superior Court Judge Julio Brady can collect a pension for his service as lieutenant governor from 1986-1990, while receiving his judge’s salary from the government.

The dispute arises from some seeming ambiguity in V.I. law. One section written in the 1990s specifically mandates that a lieutenant governor’s or governor’s pension, which is funded separately from regular government pensions, must be suspended during any future government employment.

Another section enacted in 2001 says more broadly that nothing "contained in this chapter be construed to prevent a member of the judiciary from receiving, while serving in the Judiciary, an annuity for nonjudicial service."

According to documents filed by Brady and by the V.I. Government, Brady received his special lieutenant governor’s pension from 2003, shortly after it was created by the Legislature, until January 2007, when the Finance Department ordered the pension checks suspended while Brady remained on the bench. There was a roughly seven month period during which Brady received the pension and his judge’s paycheck.

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Brady has been fighting the decision ever since.

Superior Court Judge Edgar Ross issued an order in October 2011 finding Brady was not entitled to collect the lieutenant governor’s pension while sitting as a Superior Court judge and Brady appealed a few days later.

Brady argues in his court brief that Ross erred in citing the law expressly stating lieutenant governors’ pensions will be suspended, because the broader law allowing retired public employees in general
to collect pensions while serving in the judiciary was enacted after the one banning the practice, and so should dictate the law.

Brady argues the Legislature is, by legal precedent, presumed by courts to know all its own past laws, and if it meant for the new law to not apply to the lieutenant governor, it would have said so explicitly.

Brady asserts in his court brief that "of the thousands of retired government workers receiving a pension in 2001 after (the law) was enacted, all could become (judges) and still receive that retirement except the plaintiff, Julio Brady, who is the only one who became a territorial judicial officer after his term of office ended as lieutenant governor in 1986."

"It is respectfully submitted that such a quixotic result was never intended by the Legislature," he continued.

The Legislature did explicitly choose to specify that pensions for the lieutenant governor and governor must be suspended, which the court could interpret to indicate the Legislature has expressed its intent to treat those two offices differently from rank and file government employees.

In its response brief, the V.I Government argues conversely that the mandate to suspend lieutenant governors’ pensions while they serve in another government position is not overturned or made null and void by the later law, because it makes no mention of those two offices, which are specifically mentioned in earlier law.

Citing past case law, the government argues when the Legislature uses a specific reference in one section of law, but omits it in another, it is presumed to have done so intentionally, so the fact that the existing explicit requirement that the lieutenant governor’s pension be suspended is not mentioned must be read to mean it remains in force.

The government also argues that the section of law Brady is relying on refers specifically to the section of law creating regular government employee pensions, and not the different section that sets up special pensions for the lieutenant governor and governor.

The V.I. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case June 12, and could issue an opinion at any time.

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