Illinois Supreme Court justices ruled that a legal loophole allows David Shields, former chief of Cook County’s chancery division, to collect everything he paid in over his 19-year judicial career in addition to benefits he already collected, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. Shields was sentenced in 1992 to three years in prison on charges stemming from a 1988 federal sting in which he took $6,000 in bribes to fix a case.
Shields retired in 1990 and received $75,349 in his $5,000-a-month pension before his conviction. At that point the state Judges’ Retirement System cut off his benefits. State law allows refunds to people who lose their pensions before collecting the full amount they paid in. And when a retiree dies, his family gets an amount equal to the difference between what he paid in and what he received.
However, there’s no similar restriction in the portion of the law addressing pension terminations because of convictions, Justice Thomas Kilbride wrote in his opinion for the court. ”We will not presume that the Legislature intended to define rights or procedures where the statute is silent on the subject,” Kilbride wrote. ”We can neither restrict nor enlarge the meaning of an unambiguous statute.”
The decree overturned lower court rulings that granted Shields a refund of $37,873 – the difference between what he paid and what he collected. Otherwise, the courts said, a judge convicted of a felony would get more money than someone whose pension ended upon his death.