Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Highlights from the Lawsuit Against Pension Theft Filed Today by the We Are One Coalition of Illinois



...61. Concern that the State would welch on its pension obligations because it underfunded pension systems – the same situation that exists today – is the reason that Illinois adopted the Pension Clause to protect Illinois workers (page 19)...

67. Initial pension amounts are determined by statutory formulas set forth in Illinois’ Pension Code (21)...

84. SERS, SURS and TRS members are entitled each year to a 3% automatic annuity increase under current Pension Law (25)...

90. Public Act 98-0599 amends the Pension Code in several ways to effect an unconstitutional diminishment and impairment of the pension amount a member receives (27)...

91. Public Act 98-0599 diminishes and impairs automatic annual increases (27)...

98. Public Act 98-0599 diminishes and impairs pension benefits by requiring members to miss automatic annuity increases (29)...

100. Public Act 98-0599 imposes a limitation on pensionable salary earnings (30)...

106. Public Act 98-0599 raises the age of retirement a member must obtain in order to be eligible to receive a non-discounted annuity (31)...

109. The so-called State Pension System Funding Mandate Is Illusory (32)...

114. The diminishment and impairment of pension benefits that Public Act 98-0599 imposes is substantial (33)...

147. Count I: Violation of the Pension Clause of the Illinois Constitution (45)...

154. Count II: Violation of the Pension Clause of the Illinois Constitution (47)...

165. Count III: Violation of the Takings Clause of the Illinois Constitution – Diminishment of Pension Amounts and Other Retirement Benefits (49)...

174. Count IV: Violation of the Takings Clause of the Illinois Constitution – Failure to Sufficiently Fund Each Pension or Retirement System (52)...

To read the details of the 55-page Lawsuit, Click Here.

 
from the IRTA:
According to our lawyers, the Attorney General's office (as expected) will file an amended Rule 384 motion to consolidate and transfer all three of the currently pending Sangamon County lawsuits, including the We Are One lawsuit, to Cook County. As you are aware, the IRTA complaint was filed in Cook County on December 27th.

from an email:
“…The lawsuit was filed against the three pension systems, their boards of trustees, Governor Quinn (who signed SB 1 into law and is charged with execution of all state laws) and Comptroller Topinka and Treasurer Rutherford (both of whom have responsibility for part of the process by which the pension systems disburse pension annuity payments to their members). 

“The suit claims that the changes made by SB 1 to COLA, pensionable salary and retirement age violate the Pension, Contract and Takings Clauses of the Illinois Constitution.  It seeks to have the law declared unconstitutional and its implementation halted. 

“It additionally seeks to have the State fund the pension systems in an amount which ensures that members receive all pension benefits to which they are entitled; that the failure of the State to do so has unconstitutionally taken vested pension benefits from members.  

“In order to prevent irreparable harm to public employees and retirees who face immediate and irrevocable life decisions, and to avert unduly burdensome administrative complications for the state retirement systems, WAOI sought for the past several weeks to reach agreement with the state Attorney General and the named defendants on a joint request to the court to enjoin the law’s implementation. Regrettably, the Attorney General refused to agree. Therefore, the suit reserves the right to file a request for an immediate injunction stopping the law’s implementation” (Mitch Roth, IEA General Counsel).


A Commentary (from many months ago):

To possess a right to a promised deferred compensation, such as a pension, is to assert a legitimate claim with all Illinois legislators to protect that right. There are no rights without obligations. They are mutually dependent. Fulfilling a contract is a legal and moral obligation justified by trust among elected officials and their constituents.

All citizens have rights that must be protected. When legislators swear an oath to uphold the state and federal constitutions (Article XIII, Section 3 of the Constitution of the State of Illinois), then citizens of Illinois and the United States have also acquired the right to expect that they will uphold that pledge. This is also a matter of important moral concern for all citizens of a state, for all legal claims will be validated by a moral framework since the concept of justice is grounded in ethics. If citizens’ legal rights are abused, then their dignity and humanity will also be violated.

Like all other citizens, public employees’ legal rights are derived from past political constitutions, legislative enactments, and case law. All citizens of Illinois have a fundamental right to oppose a General Assembly that imposes a violation of their constitutional rights and earned benefits.

The significant issue of pension reform is its attack on public employees’ rights to constitutionally-guaranteed, earned compensation and the legislators’ obligation to safeguard those promises. An unconscionable constitutional challenge of those rights and earned benefits generates a serious threat to their secure sense of worth as citizens and creates the unfair possibility for an economic disadvantage for a particular group of people and their families. This can never be legally or morally justified.

Public employees are promised certain retirement compensation. It is earned; it is not a gratuity. They expect and plan their lives based upon these promises. State “governments must respect ‘vested rights’ in property and contract…” (Laurence H. Tribe, American Constitutional Law). We should be able to assume most legislators in Illinois understand this concept of justice and that lawfulness demands that people keep their "covenants" with one another. Regarding current pension reform, no justice is accomplished when subordinating or diminishing public employees’ rights and earned benefits because of past legislators’ negligence, irresponsibility, and corruption.

Breaking a contract threatens the integrity of all laws that govern and protect the citizenry, for the values of the United States Constitution (Article I, Section 10) and the Illinois State Constitution (Article I, Section 16 and Article XIII, Section 5) are dependent upon the understanding and integration of all of the articles and amendments in totality.

Furthermore, there are no good reasons for legislators’ attack on public employees’ rights and benefits and their attempt to equate public employees' lives to an exchange rate in dollar amounts. The General Assembly cannot justify pension reform in accordance with fundamental, constitutional principles of reason and morality.

“The Pension Clause [Article XIII, Section 5 of the Illinois Constitution] not only makes a public employee’s participation in a pension system an enforceable contractual relationship, but also constitutionally protects the pension benefit rights contained in the Illinois Pension Code when an employee joins a pension system, including employee contribution rates. The Clause also safeguards pension benefit enhancements that are later added during employment. Further, the Clause ensures that pensions will be paid even if a pension system defaults or is on the verge of default. Finally, while the Clause bars the General Assembly from adversely changing the benefit rights of current employees via unilateral action, these rights are 'contractual' in nature and may be modified through contractual principles. In sum, while welching on public pension promises is not an option for Illinois as some legal and civic commentators have suggested, legitimate contract principles provide a solution to mitigate this crisis” (Eric M. Madiar, Chief Legal Counsel to Illinois Senate President John J. Cullerton and Parliamentarian of the Illinois Senate, Abstract for Is Welching on Public Pension Promises an Option for Illinois? An Analysis of Article XIII, Section 5 of the Illinois Constitution).


  

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