Retired judge sues in attempt to secure $90k pension

Union Leader

CONCORD — A retired judge who was found having helped her husband hide money from the state is suing to try and get $400,000 in back retirement pay, health care and a permanent pension of nearly $90,000 a year.

Patricia Coffey stepped down in 2008 after the Supreme Court suspended her for three years without pay for helping her husband, ex-State Rep. John Coffey, to create a trust to hide assets while he was being disbarred for stealing money from an elderly Rye woman. 

The Board of Trustees for the New Hampshire Judicial Retirement Plan voted to deny her application for a pension in 2015.

Coffey, now 64, lives in California, and maintains she’s entitled to a pension equal to 70 percent of her highest average salary for having served in the judicial branch for more than 16 years.

She said the retirement law grants that pension to anyone who serves at least 15 years once they reach age 60.

But the trustees said the law required Coffey to remain in the employ as a judge until she reached 60.

Once she voluntarily stepped down, she forfeited those pension rights, the trustees decided.

“The board’s denial was incorrect, both as a matter of law and under the terms of the plan,” Coffey maintained in her lawsuit.

Concord lawyer Russell Hilliard is representing Coffey.

Lawyers representing the judicial plan trustees now have 30 days to respond to this suit brought in U.S. District Court.

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