Court Affirms Pension Forfeiture for Worker Guilty of Break-in

June 28, 2007 ( - A district court judge in Quincy, Massachusetts, has ruled the Quincy Retirement Board did not violate the U.S. Constitution when it forfeited pension benefits for a worker who broke into city hall to retrieve personnel records.

The Patriot Ledger reports that former city plumbing inspector Ralph Maher argued in the lawsuit that the forfeiture of his pension, which he paid into for 26 years, was excessive punishment under the Constitution’s Eighth Amendment. The district court and Norfolk Superior Court previously dismissed the claim, saying Maher should have raised it to the retirement board while it reviewed the matter, but an appeals court remanded the case back to the district court.

The court decision said Maher failed to prove the loss of his pension was excessive, according to the Patriot Ledger. The judge rejected Maher’s argument that the¬†forfeiture – calculated at $576,000 – is excessive in relation to the $893 the court ordered Maher to pay in fines and restitution after he pled guilty to the break-in.

The court questioned whether the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits excessive fines or cruel and unusual punishments, even applied to the case, leaving the question of whether the fine was excessive to be addressed by the appellate court.

In the opinion the district court posed legal questions to a higher court about Maher’s court battle to recover his $37,000-a-year pension. Maher is suing the retirement board.