-Glen Brown blogs at Teacher/Poet/Musician
2016 IL 119618 IN THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS
(Docket Nos. 119618, 119620, 119638, 119639, 119644 cons.) MARY J. JONES et al., Appellees, v.MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES’ ANNUITY AND BENEFIT FUND OF CHICAGO et al., Appellants.
JUSTICE THEIS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Chief Justice Garman and Justices Thomas, Kilbride, and Karmeier concurred in the judgment and opinion. Justices Freeman and Burke took no part in the decision.
“…This court has twice recently construed the plain language of this clause in Kanerva v. Weems, 2014 IL 115811, and Heaton, 2015 IL 118585. We have considered its object and purpose, and reaffirmed the scope of its protections, consistent with earlier holdings from this court and the appellate court since the pension protection clause was adopted in 1970.
“As we have explained, under the clause, a public employee’s membership in a pension system is an enforceable contractual relationship, and the employee has a constitutionally protected right to the benefits of that contractual relationship. Heaton, 2015 IL 118585, ¶ 46. Those constitutional protections attach at the time an individual begins employment and becomes a member of the public pension system. Id. Thus, under its plain and unambiguous language, the clause prohibits the General Assembly from unilaterally reducing or eliminating the pension benefits conferred by membership in the pension system…” (Opinion filed March 24, 2016).
What we call rights of individuals is bound up with the theory and precepts of social and political justice we adopt (Mill, On Liberty). All citizens of the State of Illinois have legal justification for their rights and for compensation they have earned, for rights and obligations are logically correlative, and a citizen’s rights imply or complement the legislators’ obligation to guarantee them.
The keeping of promises is the General Assembly’s, the governor’s and mayor’s legal duty. It is something the U.S. Constitution and the State of Illinois Constitution require them to do whether they want to or not.
It is a moral concern and legal duty to reform the state’s sources of revenue and to address the incurred pension debt through restructuring so the state can provide services for its citizens and fund the public pension systems instead of incriminating public employees, and thereby forcing them to defend the State and United States Constitutions again and again.