Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office on Wednesday filed its notice of appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court of last week,s ruling that the state,s pension reform law is unconstitutional.
Madigan,s office said a separate motion will be filed with the court asking for an expedited ruling in the case.
Sangamon County Circuit Judge John Belz last week ruled that the year-old pension reform law passed by the General Assembly was unconstitutional. Belz rejected arguments that Illinois has special police powers it can invoke in cases of emergency, such as the state,s ongoing financial crisis. Lawyers for the state maintained that those powers allow the state to reduce pension benefits to deal with the crisis.
Belz, though, said that argument presented “no legally valid defense.” Instead, he said the pension protection clause in the state constitution provided a guarantee that pension benefits cannot be diminished or impaired.
Madigan spokeswoman Natalie Bauer said the Supreme Court must take up the appeal — rather than have it first go through the appellate court — because it involves the constitutionality of a state law. She also said the office plans to file a separate motion asking the Supreme Court to expedite a ruling in the case.
“We have no way to dictate the timing,” Bauer said.
Madigan was quoted earlier this week saying she thought the state had a “very strong argument” in favor of keeping the law in place.
Neither Bauer nor Springfield attorney John Myers, one of the lawyers who challenged the law, was certain of how much an expedited ruling would speed resolution of the case.
If the Supreme Court doesn,t agree to expedite the case, a final resolution could take several months. Myers said the clock starts running when Sangamon County prepares a record of the case and files it with the Supreme Court for the appeal. That could be done within 30 days or so, he said.
According to Supreme Court rules, the state would have to file briefs for its appeal 35 days after that record gets filed with the court. The plaintiffs — active state workers and retirees — would have another 35 days after that to file their briefs. The state is then given another 14 days to respond. The court would set a date for oral arguments after that and then take time to issue an opinion.
In a separate lawsuit involving health insurance premiums charged to retired state employees, the court heard oral arguments in September 2013 and issued an opinion in July.
Glen Brown: Should we worry about the unions’ “commitment… to develop a fair and constitutional solution to fund the state’s retirement systems” after the Illinois Supreme Court’s ruling?
- Glen Brown is a retired teacher, blogger and candidate for retired delegate to the IEA Representative Assembly.
“…Going forward, our union coalition repeats our longstanding commitment to work with anyone of good faith to develop a fair and constitutional solution to fund the state’s retirement systems” (The Illinois Education Association, November 25, 2014).
To the We Are One Leadership:
“[B]y joining a pension system, public employees obtain absolute ‘vested’ rights in the pension plan, including later benefit increases added during their service. These rights cannot be unilaterally changed by the legislature under any circumstances, but the rights may be modified via legitimate contract principles…” (Eric M. Madiar (2012). Public Pension Benefits under Siege: Does State Law Facilitate or Block Recent Efforts to Cut the Pension Benefits of Public Servants? ABA Journal of Labor & Employment Law, V. 27, no. 2, 179-194).
Though “rights may be modified via legitimate contract principles” (or by what is commonly called consideration), we hope the leadership of the We Are One Coalition intrepidly believes from now on that “a fair and constitutional solution” should never be an exchange for reductions of originally-vested benefits assured by the Illinois Constitution!
In Illinois, the Supreme Court “has consistently invalidated amendments to the Pension Code where the result is to diminish benefits” (McNamee v. State, 173 Ill. 2d 433, 445 (1996)). There are over a dozen antedated court rulings to confirm this fact.
“Any alteration of the pension system amounts to a modification of an existing contract between the State and all members of the pension system, whether employees or retirees. A member is contractually protected against a reduction in benefits” (Kuhlmann v. Board of Trustees of the Police Pension Fund of Maywood, 106 Ill. App. 3d 603, 608 (1st Dist. 1982)).
Thousands of union members (that the union leadership did not acknowledged at the time of Senate Bill 2404) did not support a decision to cut benefits and rights already guaranteed by the State and U.S. Constitutions that some Illinois politicians and union leaders chose to negotiate nearly two years ago. (Quinn’s loss confirms this conclusion).
- From tweeting #FergusonInClass
It’s pretty cool you let us talk about this today. You’re the only one who did.
I was taught that everyone should be equal.
Why don’t more white people think everyone should be equal?
Mostly it made me think about the parents. I think about how my mom would feel if that happened to my brother.
It shows how bad our justice system is, not just in Ferguson but also with all of the other cases we learned about.
I’m 14! I’m Black-skinned! I don’t want to die young. I’m going to die young!! I’m only 14! I’m scared!
They were putting out barricades before they were putting out a decision. They wanted a riot.
The sad thing about change in this country is it doesn’t happen until it hits the old, rich, white men.
The student was wailing in anguish. It was the most painful moment of my career.
Don’t shoplift and be a bully.
Deep talks on a multifaceted issue of inequality, race, and privilege…often three topics that aren’t in focus to all.
For those of us – and there were many – who hit the pension lobbying circuit, we would hear common talking points from legislators.
Prior to the December 3rd vote for Senate Bill 1 and pension theft, it was, “I’m voting for it even though I think is is unconstitutional. Then the courts will tell us what to do.”
As my mother always told me when my older brother got me to do something that got me into trouble, “If he told you to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you do it?”
Always follow the logic of mothers.
Apparently our legislators have no sense of right and wrong unless someone tells them how to behave.
Now Judge Belz has ruled Senate Bill 1 in its entirety unconstitutional. He based his ruling on case-law and so there is very little doubt that the Illinois Supreme Court will do one of three things.
They could not hear the case and let the Belz ruling stand.
They could agree to AG Lisa Madigan’s request for an expedited ruling, find it unconstitutional so that the legislature will understand what the law is before they have to produce the next budget and vote on keeping the 5% income tax.
Or they can hear it and rule it unconstitutional in due time.
The near universal expectation that the ISC will rule that pension theft is unconstitutional is symbolized by the slight shift in the recent statements of Bruce Rauner.
The Republican investor said on the campaign trail earlier this year that he’d slash benefits to retirees and current workers and lead a transition into a corporate-esque 401(k) arrangement. But as he prepares to take over the governorship, and see his ambitious election-season statements clash with political realities, Rauner has apparently softened his views on pension reform to pardon those who’ve invested income—placing money (and trust) in a dysfunctional system.
“What we should change is the future—the future accruals, the future benefits for future work,” he said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. “That is constitutional. It’s also fair and appropriate for the taxpayers and the workers themselves.”
“Hopefully (the state Supreme Court) will give us some feedback that will help guide the discussion for future modifications as appropriate for the pensions,” noted Rauner.
Yes. He said he will pardon us.
Like Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon.
Perhaps Rauner should wait for the results of the Securities and Exchange Commission investigation of pay-to-play deals between his campaign and pension investment managers before he decides who needs a pardon.
Rauner now says he would leave current retiree pensions alone.
That’s the pardon part.
He says he would change current employees pensions only going forward.
However, based on Judge Belz ruling last week, and the opinion of former Senate Democratic Party attorney Eric Madiar, contractual benefits and their contractual and constitutional protections begin on the day employees entered a contractual relationship with the pension system.
Rauner simply cannot go there. He can try. But the courts have given every indication that the pension protection clause of the Constitution is a locked box.
If memory serves me right, there were those in the union leadership and their supporters who lectured those of us in the rank-and-file who opposed the failed compromise, SB 2404.
SB 2404 would have, among other things, reduced our guaranteed post retirement yearly pension increases.
Their argument was that it was better to cut a deal with the likes of Cullerton, Madigan and Quinn than to risk a court decision.
Further, they argued that if we didn’t agree to sacrifice our constitutional and contractual rights, Madigan would pass something much worse.
That is exactly what happened. Speaker and Democratic Party Chairman Michael Madigan pushed through SB1 last December.
It was worse that SB 2404.
So much more worse that Judge Belz could barely contain himself. He quickly – far more quickly than anyone expected – threw out every word of it and rejected every twisted piece of legal argument that Lisa Madigan could come up with.
The union leadership’s argument for compromise and conciliation of our pension protection rights turned out to be wrong.
They will never say that.
But it is true.
Some of my friends fear that once the legislature faces the results of the court rulings, they will come back to the table with our union leadership and the leadership will cut another deal that compromises our pension rights.
But the courts are sending a message to union leadership, legislators and Bruce Rauner:
“The State of Illinois made a constitutionally protected promise to its employees concerning their pension benefits. Under established and uncontroverted Illinois law, the state of Illinois cannot break this promise.”
So said Judge Belz.