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California justices take rare step of recusing themselves

October 15, 2018

File - In this Nov. 10, 2011 file photo, Ross Moody of the San Francisco office of the Attorney General, second from right, speaks during a proceeding at the California Supreme Court in San Francisco. The California Supreme Court is taking the unusual step of disqualifying itself from considering a case. The justices issued an order on Monday, Oct. 15, 2018, recusing themselves from a lawsuit over tens of millions of dollars in back pay and benefits to the state's judges. The justices have previously all recused themselves only two other times in the past 30 years. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu/Pool, File)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The California Supreme Court on Monday took the unusual step of disqualifying itself from considering a case.

The justices issued an order recusing themselves from a lawsuit saying state judges were owed millions of dollars in back pay and benefits. The court normally has seven justices, but it is down to six after the retirement last year of Associate Justice Kathryn Werdegar.

The justices last all recused themselves in 2010, according to court officials.

The court said other judges would be assigned to decide whether to take up an appeal in the case. The court did not explain its decision, but the lawsuit also affects the salaries of state Supreme Court justices.

The case was filed in 2014 by a former judge who said California mostly underpaid its judges from 2008 through 2016 as it made cuts during the recession. The court in its order Monday said any new judges assigned to the case will have taken office after June 30, 2017.

An appeals court in June upheld a judge’s decision ordering the state to pay salary increases that the judge found were required as well as interest on the unpaid amount. The state is on the hook for about $40 million in back wages, interest and penalties to about 3,000 current and former judges, according to The Sacramento Bee.

The state has appealed to the California Supreme Court.

The justices also all recused themselves in 1989 and 1988.

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