Sunday, May 27, 2012

Can the State of Illinois Nullify Its Contractual Obligations Protected by the U.S. Constitution?

Are not legal rights derived from past political constitutions, legislative enactments, and case law? “Any statute which [is] imposed upon [teachers]… in order to redistribute resources and thus benefit some persons at the expense of others [extends] beyond the implicit boundaries of legislative authority. Such laws…violate natural rights of property and contract, rights lying at the very core of the private domain” (Laurence H. Tribe, American Constitutional Law).

Are teachers’ rights to a promised pension and their benefits like property with which they hold? The state “government must respect ‘vested rights’ in property and contract – that certain settled expectations of a focused and crystallized sort should be secure against governmental disruption… [There is an] “undisputed condemnation of any law attempting to ‘take property’ [from anyone]… General principles of law, enforceable in a proper forum, had settled that no form of legislative authority could be employed to serve private ends…” (Tribe). The fifth amendment of the U.S. Constitution bans uncompensated takings of property.

Why can't Illinois legislators understand the concept of justice and that lawfulness demands that people keep their covenants with one another? There is no justice in subordinating teachers’ and retirees' rights and benefits when it was legislators’ negligence, irresponsibility, and corruption that created decades of unfunded pensions. The fifth and fourteenth amendments of the U.S. Constitution protect due process of law. Article 1, Section 10 of the U.S. Constitution protects a teacher’s contract from “improvident majoritarian impairment” (Tribe). Can members of the Illinois General Assembly justify any pension reform, or diminishment of constitutionally-guaranteed benefits, in accordance with fundamental, constitutional principles of reason and morality? They can’t. 

-Glen Brown

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