Forfeit a Pension

The Public Employee Pension Forfeiture Act 1978-140 (Act 140) applies to all SERS members who commit certain crimes in relation to their employment. Enforcement of Act 140 is mandatory. Pennsylvania courts have held that SERS has no discretion in its application. It does not matter if the crime is relatively minor compared to the value of pension benefits; if Act 140 is triggered, it must be applied.

The Pennsylvania Constitution and Judicial Code also contain forfeiture provisions that apply to members of the judiciary, for whom forfeiture can occur even if no crime has been committed.

Act 140

Act 140 requires forfeiture of all pension and retirement benefits by any SERS member who commits certain crimes. Also forfeited are any benefits for the member's beneficiaries and survivor annuitants. The only benefits Act 140 allows a SERS member to receive are his or her contributions paid into the pension fund, without interest. Even these may be lost, however, because they can be used to pay fines and restitution associated with the criminal conviction.

Act 140 is triggered if a SERS member is convicted of, pleads guilty, or has no defense to any listed crime committed through the member's public office or position or when public employment puts the member in a position to commit the crime.

Pennsylvania crimes covered by Act 140 are found in 43 P.S. Section 1312. Federal crimes that are substantially the same as the Pennsylvania crimes are also covered by Act 140.

To paraphrase, they are:

Judicial Forfeitures

In addition to Act 140 forfeitures, Article V, Section 16(b) of the Pennsylvania Constitution defines additional pension forfeitures which apply to justices, judges, and members of the minor judiciary:

Except as provided by law, no salary, retirement benefit or other compensation, present or deferred, shall be paid to any justice, judge or justice of the peace who, under Section 18 or under Article VI, is suspended, removed or barred from holding judicial office for conviction of a felony or misconduct in office or conduct which prejudices the proper administration of justice or brings the judicial office into disrepute.

In addition to the constitutional forfeiture provision, the General Assembly has codified a judicial forfeiture provision into the Judicial Code at 42 Pa. C.S. Section 3352:

Former and retired judges and magisterial district judges shall receive such compensation as shall be provided by or pursuant to statute. No salary, retirement benefit or other compensation shall be paid to any judge or magisterial district judge who is suspended or removed from office under Section 18 of Article V or under Article VI of the Constitution of Pennsylvania.