The Judges' Retirement System (JRS) was established in 1937 and covers Supreme and Appellate court justices, Superior court judges, and Municipal court judges appointed or elected prior to November 9, 1994.

  • JRS is administered by CalPERS and provides retirement, disability, death, and survivor benefits.
  • Health and dental benefits are provided to eligible retirees and beneficiaries of JRS under the Public Employees' Medical and Hospital Care Act (PEMHCA).
  • Benefits payable through JRS are financed by the General Fund, payroll contributions of members, and the state's contribution as an employer.
  • Both the employer and members contribute at the rate of 8 percent of their compensation.

As a current JRS member, you're eligible to retire if you are either:

  • Age 60 with at least 20 years of service credit
  • Age 66 with at least 18 years of service credit

my|CalPERS is your gateway to conducting business electronically with CalPERS. Use this secure website to access real-time details about your CalPERS accounts.

To obtain an account, go to my|CalPERS and follow the steps to register.

*Not all self-service features in my|CalPERS are available for JRS members. For assistance with your retirement questions, call JRS at (916) 795-3688.

If you have at least five years of judicial service, you may retire under deferred retirement. However, you will not receive a retirement allowance until you meet either of the following criteria:

  • You reach the age at which you would've been eligible to retire under Government Code Section 75025, if you had remained continuously in office up to that age, and you're at least age 63; OR
  • You are age 60 if you have at least 20 years of judicial service.

At retirement, there are various options available to you. You can choose to receive the highest benefit payable, or you may choose one of the Optional settlements provided in Government Code section 75071.5.

Unmodified Allowance - Provides the highest monthly allowance payable to you for your lifetime. This option provides no continuing monthly allowance to a beneficiary and no return of unused member contributions upon your death.

Return of Remaining Contributions Option 1 - Provides a monthly retirement allowance payable to you for your lifetime. Upon your death after retirement, a lump-sum payment of any remaining member contributions will be paid to one or more named beneficiaries.

100 Percent Option 2 Beneficiary - Provides a monthly retirement allowance payable to you for your lifetime. Upon your death after retirement, 100 percent of the option portion of your ongoing monthly allowance will be paid to your named beneficiary. Upon both your deaths, a lump-sum payment of any remaining member contributions will be paid to one or more named beneficiaries.

100 Percent Option 2 Beneficiary with Benefit Allowance Increase – Provides a monthly retirement allowance payable to you for your lifetime. Upon your death after retirement, 100 percent of the option portion of your ongoing monthly allowance will be paid to your named beneficiary. Your retirement will increase back to the Unmodified Allowance amount if:

  • Your beneficiary predeceases you; or
  • Your non-spouse beneficiary waives entitlement to the 100 Percent Beneficiary Option 2 benefit; or
  • Your beneficiary is your spouse and your marriage is dissolved, annulled, or you and your spouse are legally separated; and the judgment dividing the community property awards the total interest in the Judges' Retirement System to you

You must notify the Judges' Retirement System of these changes.

50 Percent Beneficiary Option 3 - Provides a monthly retirement allowance payable to you for your lifetime. Upon your death after retirement, 50 percent of the option portion of your ongoing monthly allowance will be paid to your named beneficiary. Upon both your deaths, a lump-sum payment of any remaining member contributions will be paid to one or more named beneficiaries.

50 Percent Option 3 Beneficiary with Benefit Allowance Increase - Provides a monthly retirement allowance to you for your lifetime. Upon your death after retirement, 50 percent of the option portion of your ongoing monthly allowance will be paid to your named beneficiary. Your retirement will increase back to the Unmodified Allowance amount if:

  • Your beneficiary predeceases you; or
  • Your non-spouse beneficiary waives entitlement to the 50 Percent Beneficiary Option 3 benefit; or
  • Your beneficiary is your spouse and your marriage is dissolved, annulled, or you and your spouse are legally separated; and the judgment dividing the community property awards the total interest in the Judges' Retirement System to you

You must notify the Judges' Retirement System of these changes.

Flexible Beneficiary Option 4 - Provides a monthly retirement allowance payable to you for your lifetime. Upon your death after retirement, an ongoing monthly allowance of a specific dollar amount, or specific percentage of your Unmodified Allowance will be paid to one or more named beneficiaries.

Regardless of what option you choose, your qualifying* spouse or registered domestic partner will automatically receive the Surviving Spouse Allowance which is a monthly allowance equal to 50 percent of your Unmodified Allowance. Qualifying means that the judge and the spouse were married as of January 1, 1980 or married continuously for a period beginning one year prior to the date of retirement and continued to be married at the time of the judge's death.

If you become unable to continue the duties of your office because of a mental or physical disability that is, or is likely to become, permanent, you may apply to the Commission on Judicial Performance (CJP) to be considered for a disability retirement. Contact us at (916) 795-3688 for more specific information.

To apply for retirement, you must complete a JRS retirement application. To ensure your application is processed timely, please submit your application to JRS 60 to 90 days prior to your intended retirement date.

Increases to active judge's salaries are governed by Government Code section 68203. Increases to a retired judge's retirement allowance are governed by Government Code 75072 and 75076 (a). Judicial Salary increases are implemented when JRS is notified by the California Department of Human Resources (CalHR). Depending on when the notification is received by our office, JRS will apply the increase to your next available retirement warrant. The adjustment will include any retroactive amounts owed.

A refund of your contributions terminates your JRS membership, and you will not be eligible for any future benefits. You must accept a refund of your contributions if you:

  • Leave office prior to retirement and you have less than five years of service credit
  • Plead guilty or no contest to, or are found guilty of, a crime committed while holding office which is punishable as a felony under California or Federal laws, and which involves moral turpitude, or was committed in the course and scope of your duties

Call JRS at (916) 795-3688 for more information.

Other Retirement Information

Your retirement allowance will be subject to both State and Federal taxes. At the time of your retirement, you will be given the opportunity to make an election regarding tax withholding. You may change your tax withholding election at any time.

At retirement, we recommend that you make an appointment with representatives from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the California Franchise Tax Board, or a private tax consultant and/or attorney, to obtain information regarding the taxability of your retirement allowance. JRS will provide you with the information they need to advise you in this matter.

IRC Section 415 places a dollar limit on the annual benefit you can receive from a tax-qualified pension plan. Judges entering JRS membership on or after January 1, 1990, will be subject to the annual benefit limits established by the IRS.

JRS has limited reciprocity with CalPERS and plans under the County Employees Retirement Law of 1937. If you have service credit and/or contributions on deposit with CalPERS, or one of the 37 Act Counties, you may be entitled to have your CalPERS or 37 Act County retirement benefits computed based on your judicial salary. You must retire concurrently from CalPERS. JRS, and/or a 37 Act County Plan for limited reciprocity to apply.

If you have refunded from CalPERS, you may have the option of purchasing that service credit. The CalPERS service credit election must be completed prior to retirement, and you must retire concurrently for reciprocity to apply.

Your JRS benefits may be considered community property under California Law. If your marriage or domestic partnership is legally terminated, you legally separate, or you get an annulment, your former spouse or former registered domestic partner may be entitled to receive a portion of your retirement benefits. Please contact JRS for more information.

A nonmember spouse or domestic partner loses eligibility as a dependent under the member's health benefit plan on the last day of the month in which the marriage or registered domestic partnership terminated. It is the judge's responsibility to inform their employer that their marriage or domestic partnership has been dissolved. Retired members who are enrolled in a CalPERS-covered health benefit plan must request to remove the nonmember spouse from their plan and submit a copy of the Judgment of Dissolution to:

Judges' Retirement System
P.O. Box 942705
Sacramento, CA 94229-2705

The nonmember spouse may, pursuant to the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA), elect to continue coverage at his or her own expense, or the court order may specify the member must maintain coverage for the nonmember spouse for up to 36 months from the date coverage is lost.

Service Credit

If you're reappointed or elected to a judicial position after receiving a refund of your contributions, you may redeposit your withdrawn contributions, plus interest, from the date of withdrawal to the date of redeposit and restore past service credit.

As an active judge, you're eligible to purchase service credit in JRS for certain types of previous employment if you're not receiving credit for this service under any other public retirement system. To purchase the service credit, you must pay the amount that would have been deducted from your salary had you been a judge during that time, plus any applicable interest.

You may purchase all or any portion of your prior service. However, you must elect to purchase this prior service credit before you retire.

You may be eligible to purchase additional service credit in JRS for active duty military service. Military Service may be purchased year for year, with a minimum of one year up to a maximum of four years. You must have a year of service worked for every year of Military Service credit you purchase.

To request a cost estimate for your Military Service, you may send in your request, along with a copy of your DD214 and we will confirm your eligibility and provide you with an estimate. You also will be asked to certify that you are not receiving credit for this service in any other public retirement system.

The cost to purchase your Military Service is based on a present value calculation and the eligible member can make payment in full, or by payment options that are available.

You may elect to purchase Subordinate Judicial Officer (SJO) time. You must purchase all years worked as a SJO. If you only need one or two years but have 10 years of SJO, you would forfeit any remaining time not purchased. If you are eligible for a benefit in another retirement system for your SJO time, you cannot purchase the service credit in JRS. Payment in full must be made at the time of election.

Maintaining your SJO in another plan may allow you to retire concurrently from JRS and your other retirement plan providing benefits and rights that could be more beneficial than the purchase of the service in JRS. Please contact the Judges' Retirement System to assist you in evaluating your options.

If you're interested in purchasing service credit, please call JRS at (916) 795-3688.

Health Benefits

Health benefits for members of JRS are administered by CalPERS. Visit Plans & Rates to:

  • Access your plan's evidence of coverage
  • View your summary of benefits
  • Compare health plans and costs

You and any eligible dependents are required to certify your eligibility for Medicare at age 65, or at retirement if you are working beyond the age of 65. Please visit Medicare for:

  • Eligibility and Enrollment information
  • Continuing CalPERS Health Coverage After Age 65
  • Medicare Premiums Information
  • Transitioning to a Medicare Health Plan

Once you retire, JRS becomes your health benefits officer. You're eligible to enroll in or continue health coverage into retirement if you:

  • Retire within 120 days of your separation date with your employer
  • Are eligible for health enrollment on the date of your separation

If you're enrolled in a state health plan at the time of your retirement, you can:

  • Continue with your existing plan
  • Change your plan
  • Change your dependents

If you're not enrolled in a state health plan at the time of your retirement, you're still eligible to enroll and may:

  • Elect to enroll at retirement or within 60 days of your retirement date.
  • Request enrollment during any future Open Enrollment period.
  • Enroll outside of Open Enrollment period if you experience a qualifying life event.

If you separate from employment and are deemed retired under Government Code section 75033.5, and you are enrolled in a state health plan at the time of your retirement, you have the ability to:

  • Continue with your existing plan
  • Change your plan
  • Change your dependents

If you're not enrolled in a state health plan at the time of your retirement, you're still eligible to enroll and may:

  • Elect to enroll at retirement or within 60 days of your retirement date
  • Request enrollment during any future Open Enrollment period or due to a qualifying life event when outside of Open Enrollment

You'll pay both the employee and the state's share of the premiums until you commence your pension. Once you start receiving your retirement allowance, you may be entitled to receive a contribution from the state toward the cost of your premiums. However, the state contribution may not completely cover the full monthly health premium of your health plan. Depending on your vesting for the state contribution and which plan you choose, you may be responsible for a portion of the health premium.

The state pays a portion of your medical insurance premium. You must pay the difference between the state contribution amount and the premium for the medical plan in which you are enrolled.

The amount the state contributes towards your medical coverage depends on whether or not you are “vested.” If you meet the requirements to continue medical benefits into retirement and were first hired by the state:

  • Before January 1, 1985 – You're eligible to receive 100 percent of the state's contribution.
  • After January 1, 1985 – You're subject to “vesting” requirements. You must have 10 years of service to be fully vested and qualify for 100 percent of the state's contribution towards medical coverage. With less than 10 years, your state contribution is pro-rated based upon your years of service.

The California Department of Human Resources (CalHR) is the administrator for retiree dental and vision benefits. Please visit the Retirees section of the California Department of Human Resources website for dental and vision benefit information.

You may elect to continue or enroll into a state dental plan at retirement. JRS will process your enrollment according to your election at retirement.

All retirees pay a share toward their dental coverage. The amount of your retiree share depends on the dental plan in which you elect to enroll.

You have several vision insurance options available to you at retirement:

  • Continue your employee coverage through COBRA
  • Enroll into the state-sponsored vision benefits
  • Enroll into the vision plan offered by the California Judges' Association by contacting them at (916) 239-4068

Call your personnel office to arrange for state-sponsored vision benefits during retirement

If your marriage is dissolved, annulled or your domestic partnership is terminated, your former spouse must be removed from your health plan. They are no longer eligible for coverage under your plan as of midnight on the last day of the month that your divorce or termination of domestic partnership is final. If you are still employed, you will need to contact your Personnel Office to have your former spouse removed from your health plan. If you are retired, contact JRS to have your former spouse removed from your health plan. We will need a copy of your divorce decree.

Your former spouse will be offered COBRA benefits for 36 months.

Death Benefits

We understand how important it is to make sure you're aware of what benefits are payable and who the beneficiary may be upon a death. We're here to ease this process.

JRS members are eligible for various death benefits ranging from a simple return of contributions to a monthly allowance. Each member's death benefits can vary significantly, depending on circumstances such as your membership date, your age and eligibility for retirement, or your retirement election.

We're here to assist you through the death benefit application process. Follow the steps below to report the death of a JRS member, retiree, survivor, or anyone receiving a benefit from any of these retirement systems.

Step 1: Notify the JRS of the Death

Telephone Number:

(916) 795-3688
TTY: (888) 249-7442
Fax: (916) 795-1500

Mailing Address:

Judges' Retirement System
P.O. Box 942705
Sacramento, CA 94229-2705

You can also visit the Headquarters and Regional Offices near you to report the death in person. In some cases, the member's employer may report the death directly to us.

Be ready to provide the following information when you contact JRS:

  • Date of death
  • Name and Social Security number (or CalPERS ID) of the deceased
  • Name, address, telephone number, date of birth, date of marriage, and SocialSecurity number of surviving spouse or registered domestic partner.
    • If there is no spouse: Name, address, and telephone number of closest next of kin or the person designated to settle the estate
  • Name, address, and telephone number of the person providing the notice of death

Step 2: Complete the Application

Once JRS is notified of the death, we'll mail you a death benefit application package. The application includes forms to complete and a list of documents you need to send us. The application package is only mailed after a death is reported to us; it cannot be ordered online.

Documents Required for Death Benefit Payment

Copies of official documents are acceptable; you do not need to mail the original. The death certificate must list the cause of death.

Document Active Retired*
Copy of death certificate X X
Completed application X X
Marriage certificate (or proof that a marriage ended in divorce or death) X **
Domestic partnership registration certificate (or proof that the registered domestic partnership ended in termination or death X **
Birth certificate of survivor (if entitled to a monthly allowance) X **
Copy of children's birth certificates (if children are to be paid) X **
Letters of Administration or Letters of Testamentary for the probated estate (if the estate is to be paid) X X
Certification of trust form (if the trust is to be paid) X X

*Any warrant issued to a retiree or survivor after their death must be returned to JRS. We'll request reimbursement from the financial institution if the payment was electronically transferred into the deceased's account unless we inform the spouse to keep the warrant.

**These documents may not be required; check with JRS prior to submitting.

Step 3: Return Information to the JRS

Return the completed forms and required documents to:

Judges' Retirement System
P.O. Box 942705
Sacramento, CA 94229-2705

The information on the completed forms serves as the formal application to identify beneficiaries who may be legally entitled to receive benefits. We'll contact you if additional information is needed.

Death benefits are paid according to the valid beneficiary designation on file. Benefits may be paid per statutory beneficiary order if there is no designation on file or the designation was revoked.

JRS will determine who the death benefits are payable to after we receive and review all the required documents.

Naming or Changing Your Beneficiary

Active members may designate beneficiaries by completing the JRS Active Survivor and Beneficiary Form (PDF) or the JRS Surviving Spouse Pre-Retirement Death Benefit Election of Optional Settlement 2 (PDF). JRS provides death benefits to eligible survivors or beneficiaries. To learn more about what benefits may be payable, contact our office.

Retired members designated the beneficiary for their death benefits when they retired. There are limited situations after retirement when a member can choose a new option or beneficiary. To learn more, contact us at (916) 795-3688.

Beneficiary designation changes can be made at any time after reaching retirement age. The beneficiary designation change will not supersede any community property claim obtained by an order for division based on Section 2610 of the Family Code.

Many factors affect death benefits, so it's not possible to know exactly what is payable until we receive and review all of the required documents after a death is reported.

If there has been a death, contact JRS to request the exact benefits and amounts payable for your specific case.

The benefits listed below may be payable upon the death of an active member.

One-Time Payments

  • The Accumulated Contributions is a lump sum distribution payable to the judge's beneficiary. This amount is not payable if a monthly benefit is payable to a surviving spouse or eligible surviving children.
  • The Basic Death Benefit is an amount equal to one-twelfth of the annual compensation of the judge during the 12 months immediately preceding his or her death multiplied by the completed years of service as a judge, but not exceeding one- half of the judge's annual compensation. This benefit could be paid in addition to other lump sum benefits but will not be payable if a monthly benefit is payable to a surviving spouse of eligible surviving children.
  • The Extended Service Incentive Program (ESIP) is a lump sum payment paid to the beneficiary or eligible survivor of judges enrolled in the program who pass away prior to retirement. If a judge has not filed a beneficiary designation, payment will be made to the survivors of the judge according to the statutory beneficiary order.

Monthly Payments

  • The Surviving Spouse 25 percent allowance
  • Article 5 Optional Surviving Spouse Benefits
  • Article 5.1 Optional Surviving Children's Benefits
  • The Pre-Retirement Option 2W Benefit is a monthly allowance to an eligible surviving spouse or eligible registered domestic partner. The allowance is calculated as though the member retired from service on the date of death and chose Option 2W. This benefit is payable only if elected by the member prior to death and if the member was at least age 60 with at least 20 years of judicial service upon death.

Benefits payable upon the death of a retired member depend on:

  • Eligible beneficiary
  • Marital status
  • The option they chose at retirement

The following benefits may be payable:

One-Time Payments

  • If the Option 1 Balance was chosen at retirement, any unused member contributions in their account are paid in a lump sum. Member contributions are usually depleted 8-10 years after retirement.
  • The Pro Rata Payment is a lump-sum payment for the allowance due for the month of death, prorated through the date of death.

Monthly Payments

  • The Lifetime Option is a monthly allowance to the designated beneficiary if the retiree chose 100 Percent Beneficiary Option 2, 100 Percent Beneficiary Option 2 with Benefit Allowance Increase, 50 Percent Beneficiary Option 3, 50 Beneficiary Option 3 with Benefit Allowance Increase at retirement.
  • Surviving Spouse Allowance is a monthly lifetime allowance payable if there is an eligible surviving spouse or domestic partner. In all cases, judges who took the bench on or after January 1, 1980, must be married or in a registered domestic partnership for at least one year prior to retirement for a spouse to be eligible to receive the surviving spouse allowance.
  • Article 5.1 Surviving Children's Benefits is a monthly allowance payable if elected and there is an eligible surviving child.

Health benefits are automatically canceled when the member dies. A survivor or beneficiary can re-enroll for health benefits if both of the following conditions are met:

  • The survivor/beneficiary was eligible for enrollment in a CalPERS health plan prior to the member's death.
  • The survivor/beneficiary will receive a continuing monthly death benefit payment.

If health benefits are canceled and the beneficiary is not eligible to continue coverage, beneficiaries may be eligible for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) health coverage. Certain qualifying events determine eligibility for COBRA.

Check with the member's personnel office or contact us at (916) 795-3688 for information on how to apply.

Monthly death benefit allowances are reported to tax authorities annually on a Form 1099R. The taxable portion of the amount paid each year is calculated under the same tax rules that apply to a service retirement.

Retirees

The monthly allowance is treated as income. Unless the beneficiary requests otherwise, income tax will be withheld based on the rate of a married person with three exemptions.

Lump Sum Benefits

The taxable portion of the Basic Death Benefit, Retired Death Benefit, and Option 1 balance is subject to a mandatory 20 percent federal tax withholding rate.

The taxable portion of the lump sum death benefit can be rolled over to an individual retirement account (IRA) to avoid federal income tax withholding. Spouses can roll over to a traditional IRA and non-spouse beneficiaries can roll over to an inherited IRA.

If you received a benefit, we will mail you a Form 1099R at the beginning of the year that lists the amount you were paid in the previous tax year. You are responsible for reporting the benefit to the IRS with your personal income taxes.

Working After Retirement

Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act of 2013 (PEPRA)  added sections 7522.56 and 7522.57 to the Government Code effective January 1, 2013, which set forth post-retirement employment requirements for all retirees.

Government Code section 7522.57 prohibits a person retired from a public retirement system from receiving his or her retirement allowance if appointed on or after January 1, 2013, to a full-time salaried position with a state board or commission. Refer to Government Code section 7522.57 (d) for specific information regarding your options if appointed to a full-time salaried position with a state board or commission.

A retiree appointed to a part-time state board or commission may serve without loss or interruption of benefits. A part-time appointment is defined as an appointment with a salary of no more than $60,000 annually.

You will need to notify JRS at (916) 795-3688 if you are appointed to a state board or commission.

Government Code section 7522.56 specifically excludes retirees from JRS who are appointed to serve as a retired judge with the Assigned Judges' Program from the provisions of Government Code section 7522.56.