The New York State's top judge has offered a rare criticism aimed at some of his fellow jurists. The mild rebuke centers on "double-dipping". It is the somewhat rare but legal practice of collecting a public salary and a state pension at the same time.
When asked by 2 On Your Side whether such behavior was ethically proper for judges, Court of Appeals Chief Justice Jonathan Lippmann responded with a one sentence reply thought his spokesman David Bookstaver.
"While it is completely legal and beyond his authority to do something about, Chief Justice Lippmann believes collecting two salaries is something judges should not do," says Bookstaver.
While the comment was not directed at any one judge, it does cover Buffalo-area State Supreme Court Judge John O'Donnell.
Now in his second 14-year term, O'Donnell started collecting his pension in 2010. The pension amount for O'Donnell is $90,300 annually according to the State Comptroller's Office. The pension payments are in addition to the salary O'Donnell is paid, $154,400 a year.
O'Donnell is the only double-dipping judge in the state's 8th Judicial District covering Erie, Niagara and Chautauqua counties, but he is hardly alone in the practice. Last April, the Democrat & Chronicle found 20 of the top 50 state pension system double-dippers were judges.
The State Comptroller's Office explains O'Donnell and his fellow double-dipping jurists have managed to legally weave through a series of loopholes in the laws and regulations governing the state's public pensions. The judges are both old enough, and been members of the pension system long enough to qualify for the duel benefit.
O'Donnell declined to comment to 2 On Your Side.