€78k pension inadequate to live on, says ex-judge

A retired High Court judge who got a €250,000 lump sum payment on retirement two years ago, plus €78,000 pension annually, following 12 years on a judicial salary ranging from €165,000 to €240,000, has said his income is not “adequate” to meet the needs of himself and his family.

Barry White, 71, a father of four, said in court documents “my perception of adequate will not be shared by all workers” and is a relative concept measured partly against financial commitments made and a “particular way of living”.

Unlike other workers in other professions affected by cuts, he was “uniquely affected” in being told he could not return to practise his chosen profession “to make better financial provision for myself and my family”. His continuing case is against the Bar Council and minister for justice. The claims are denied.

He could never have anticipated, when he agreed to become a judge, that his salary would suffer a 38% cut and his annual pension entitlements would be reduced from an estimated €98,000 to €78,000, he said.

In opening arguments for the council, Paul Sreenan SC said it was “very pleased” Mr White had withdrawn “very serious” allegations against it of infringement of competition law.

He rejected arguments by Mr White that one of its rules governing membership of the Law Library breaches his rights. Mr White claims the rule, which prevents retired judges practising in courts equal to or lower than where they presided as a judge, has led to him not being listed by the minister on the relevant panel eligible for work at the criminal bar. In Mr White’s case, the rule means he may only practise in the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.

The council also contends Mr White has failed to prove he needs to resume work as a matter of economic necessity, Mr Sreenan said. He said Mr White had a successful practise before being appointed a judge in 2002, in which position he earned an annual salary over 12 years ranging from €165,000 to €243,000 until he retired in 2014 with a lump sum payment of €250,000 and an annual pension of €78,000.

The Bar Council also estimated Mr White’s share of the €11.5m estate of his late mother was, after tax, “well in excess of €1m”, counsel said. Mr White had also said his wife is working outside the home but had not provided details of her earnings, he said.

Mr Sreenan said Mr White had linked his perception of an “adequate” income to a particular standard of living but there was no entitlement under the Constitution to a particular standard of living.

He had no right to unlimited or unrestricted practise as an advocate and that was among the “fallacies” underlining his case.

The case continues before Mr Justice Max Barrett.


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