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Taft-Carter orders mediation in the pension lawsuit

December 18, 2012

Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter this morning told the two sides in the legal challenge to last year’s landmark overhaul of the pension system to try to settle their differences through mediation.

Court spokesman Craig Berke says the talks will be facilitated by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, a branch of the federal government. Taft-Carter is due to be updated on the status of the discussions in early February.

“This [mediation] will go on in addition to the preparations for a trial,” Berke said.

Berke says Taft-Carter ordered the two sides to talk “because the case is ripe for it,” and the parties are “all very much in agreement” on the merits of seeking a settlement.

Governor Lincoln Chafee last year signed into law the pension overhaul passed by the General Assembly. The governor recently came out in support of seeking a negotiated settlement to the legal challenge by a series of public-sector unions, while state Treasurer Gina Raimondo — the architect of the pension overhaul — said the dispute should be settled in court.

Raimondo’s office couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.

Robert Walsh, executive director of the National Education Association Rhode Island, hailed the move by Taft-Carter:

“We’re very pleased that the judge has ordered both sides into mediation. We have always felt that this would best be resolved by sitting down across the table from each other and negotiating out our differences, and we’re guardedly optimistic that the process will work.”

Walsh says Taft-Carter wants an update on February 1,

“So we expect to be very busy in January trying to resolve our issues, realizing that there will be a tentative trial date later in the year if we are not able to do so. We’re prepared for both.”

Supporters of litigating the case say a legal decision is needed to clarify whether the General Assembly can cut back pension benefits previously conferred by lawmakers. Walsh says a negotiated settlement is preferable, in part since it would resolve this round of the pension fight.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Al Moncrief permalink
    December 18, 2012 5:31 pm

    COLORADO COURT OF APPEALS CONFIRMS COLORADO PERA PUBLIC PENSION COLA BENEFITS AS CONTRACTUAL.

    The Colorado Court of Appeals has reversed and remanded an initial District Court ruling that denied the contractual status of public pension COLAs in Colorado. The Court of Appeals confirmed that Colorado PERA pension COLA benefits are a contractual obligation of the pension plan Colorado PERA and its affiliated public employers. A huge victory for public sector retirees in Colorado! The Colorado Legislature may not breach its contracts and push taxpayer obligations onto the backs of a small group of elderly pensioners.

    The lawsuit is continuing. Support pension rights in the U.S. by contributing at saveperacola.com. Friend Save Pera Cola on Facebook!

    In 1977, the U.S. Supreme Court (in U.S. Trust Co, 431 U.S.) clarified that state attempts to impair their own contracts, ESPECIALLY FINANCIAL OBLIGATIONS, were subject to greater scrutiny and very little deference because the STATE’S SELF-INTEREST IS AT STAKE. As the court bluntly stated:

    “A governmental entity can always find a use for extra money, especially when taxes do not have to be raised. If a state could reduce its financial obligations whenever it wanted to spend the money for what it regarded as an important public purpose, the Contract Clause would provide no protection at all . . . Thus, a state cannot refuse to meet its legitimate financial obligations simply because it would prefer to spend the money to promote the public good rather than the private welfare of its creditors.”

Trackbacks

  1. Raimondo pledges “good faith” effort on pension mediation « On Politics
  2. BREAKING: Judge orders mediation between Unions and State in Pension lawsuit | AFSCME Local 2881
  3. Chafee says approving a pension settlement is mostly up to him and the General Assembly « On Politics
  4. Mediating the pension overhaul — and what it means for 2014 « On Politics

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