Hearing July 22: Present the Plaintiffs by Attorneys DONALD M. CRAVEN, JOHN M. MYERS, JOHN E. STEVENS, and AARON B. MADUFF in person, and telephonically JOHN T. SHAPIRO, JOHN M. FITZGERALD, JACK BARBER, and URI ABT. Present the State by Chief Deputy Attorney General BRENT D. STRATTON in person, and telephonically Assistant Chief Deputy Attorney General R. DOUGLAS REES, AAG RICHARD S. HUSZAGH, and AAG GARY CAPLAN. Cause called for status hearing. Status hearing held. The parties advise the Court on their progress. By agreement of the parties this matter is set for further status hearing on September 4, 2014 at 1:30 PM in front of the Honorable Judge JOHN W. BELZ.
from State Journal-Register:
To read more: Lawyers will push to speed up pension reform ruling.
View Attorney Aaron Maduff's interview regarding the pension reform lawsuits against the State of Illinois. It is the July 2nd post on this blog.
From the Illinois Retired Teachers Association:
from Doug Finke (State Journal-Register):
“Some of the lawsuits also raise other constitutional issues, such as those governing contracts and equal protection. Lawyers for employees and retirees wanted a quicker resolution of the pension protection issues. ‘We as plaintiffs feel the pension protection clause is an absolute issue,’ said Aaron Maduff, who represents the State Universities Annuitants Association. ‘The plaintiffs felt we should deal with the threshold issue of the pension protection clause because if we are correct on that, then the case is done. It’s over. But the judge has decided that he wants to do all of the issues.’
“A lengthy schedule was laid out in court Thursday for both side to prepare their cases to address all of the various issues that have been raised. Asked when there might be an initial resolution to the case, Maduff said, ‘We’re looking into next year certainly.’
“The state has essentially argued that Illinois’ financial condition is bad enough that it justifies ignoring the pension protection clause in this case. Lawmakers who support the reforms also argue that, in exchange for lower benefits, employees will have their pension contributions reduced and get guarantees the state will make its pension payments. However, John Myers, who represents the Retired State Employees Association, said the plaintiffs believe the pension protection clause doesn’t allow for any exceptions. ‘When I say no exceptions, there’s no wiggle room just because the state happens to have financial problems,’ Myers said.
“Attorneys for the state have said they will call five expert witnesses to buttress their case, while attorneys for the employees and retirees said they need time to review research work produced by the experts, conduct depositions and file responses.The schedule for all of that will take the case into early December. The pension reform law was supposed to take effect June 1, but Belz put a hold on it until the court cases have been resolved…”
Read more: http://www.sj-r.com/article/20140626/News/140629500#ixzz35nIt6JC7
"On May 14, 2014, the Court entered an injunction completely staying implementation of Public Act 98-599 (The Pension Reform Act). Having resolved the emergency, the Court today turned to setting a schedule for the remainder of the case. The State immediately sought a relatively lengthy briefing schedule to permit it time to provide as many as three different expert reports and a motion to dismiss the case based upon the sovereign powers (also known as police powers.) Essentially, the State wants to present a great deal of evidence about the fiscal state of the State and budgetary concerns which are so pressing that the State can gut pensions without regard to the Pension Protection Clause.
"The State takes the view that with the stay in place, there is no rush to get the case completed. The various plaintiffs groups, including State Universities Annuitants Association (SUAA) were interested in a very quick legal briefing and ruling by the Court on the question of whether the sovereign powers (or police powers) were a defense at all. If the answer is no, then the case could proceed on that question alone and perhaps reach an expedient resolution.
"The Court never reached that issue, however, determining that the first order of business was to address questions of class certification.* The result was that the parties are to file motions relating to class certification by June 5, and the Court will address the issue at a hearing on June 13.
"Meanwhile, the Court’s injunction staying the implantation of the law will remain in effect so that the Court can turn to the substantive issues in the case without leaving people to worry about emergency retirement… Will the Court simply lift the stay at some point in the future and give the law retroactive effect? The answer to that question is an almost certain “NO.”
"Injunctions are not granted lightly by courts and must be based on near compelling circumstances. It is very important to remember that the Court specifically cited ‘confusion and uncertainty’ as a basis for granting the stay in the first instance. As SUAA Executive Director, Linda Brookhart noted in SUAA’s motion for injunctive relief, mass confusion and uncertainty was forcing many SURS members to retirement even though they did not need to do so.
"The Court clearly heard her concern and stayed the law at least in part to alleviate the pressure that this confusion and uncertainty was creating. It would be a contrary act for the Court to later lift that injunction and give the law retroactive effect – that would create the very confusion and uncertainty that the Court sought to eliminate by using the carefully reserved power of injunctive relief in the first instance. SURS members should simply not be worried that the injunction will be lifted and the law given retroactive effect. We will be providing more information after the Court’s hearing on June 13" (The aforementioned information is from a SUAA Mini Briefing)
*[The process in which the court decides whether a class action is the appropriate form for the lawsuit].
"Court Enjoins Implementation of Pension Reform:
"On May 14, 2014, the Sangamon County Circuit Court issued a Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction delaying implementation of Public Act 98-0599 ('Pension Reform Act'). In its order, the court found that plaintiffs established a 'fair question' that they will succeed on the merits as to their challenge that the Pension Reform Act violates the Pension Protection Clause of the Illinois Constitution. The court order stays the Act in its entirety, and prohibits implementation or administration of any provision of the Act until further order of the court or until the Act is held unconstitutional and a permanent injunction is entered.
"While the injunction stays implementation of the entire Act, school districts and colleges should not consider all deadlines created by the Act as non-existent or moot. A final court resolution declaring the Act constitutional would dissolve the stay, and the Act would be in effect as currently written unless the legislature acted to modify the existing language.
"Impact on Grandfathering of Contracts:
"In order to ensure a contract is considered grandfathered, we recommend that a school district or college approve the contract on or before June 1, 2014. The stay of implementation of the Pension Reform Act does not, by itself, automatically revise or extend the date by which grandfathered contracts must be adopted. In the event the Act is found constitutional, failure to adopt a contract on or before June 1, 2014 likely would result in that contract not having grandfathered status, and all salary amounts exceeding the statutory pensionable earnings cap would be deemed non-creditable. Therefore, parties should proceed as though the June 1, 2014 deadline for grandfathered contracts remains applicable.
"Employee Contributions to the Illinois Teachers' Retirement System and State University Retirement System:
"Under the Act, the employee contribution for certain Tier I employees was reduced by 1% (from 9.4% to 8.4% for TRS; from 8% to 7% for SURS) as of July 1, 2014. The injunction entered by the court stays this provision such that the employee contribution will remain at the higher amount and must be paid to the appropriate retirement system. Consequently, the full employee contribution (9.4% for TRS and 8% for SURS) must be paid until further order of the court. School districts and colleges with provisions in their collective bargaining agreements or contracts that modified the amount of the employee contribution or increased salary in anticipation of the reduced retirement contribution should contact their attorney to review options to avoid unintended additional expenses that may arise under these circumstances.
"The provisions of the Pension Reform Act related to increased retirement age, COLA/AAI freezes, sick and vacation leave limitations, and creation of the Defined Contribution Plan are also stayed until further order of the court."
from Susan E. Nicholas of the firm's Champaign-Urbana office prepared this Law Alert.
Judge John W. Belz granted the motion for a temporary restraining order. Therefore, pension litigation (SB 1) has been stayed in its entirety until any future court order. (Scroll down to May 2nd for more information regarding an injunction).
From the We Are One Coalition:
Senate Bill 1 (Public Act 98-599) will not go into effect on June 1 as scheduled.
This stays the legislation in its entirety so that the pension systems and other defendants are enjoined from implementing or administering any provisions of the act until the court issues a final ruling on the merits of the act’s constitutionality or until further order of the court. In other words, the injunction will remain in effect until a determination is made on the law’s constitutionality, unless the court takes further action on the injunction prior to that time.
The court found that plaintiffs have shown a likelihood of success on their contention that Public Act 98-599 violates the Pension Protection Clause of the Illinois Constitution.
"This is an important first step in our efforts to overturn this unfair, unconstitutional law and to protect retirement security for working and retired Illinois families," said Michael T. Carrigan, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO, on behalf of the coalition. "We are pleased the court prudently chose to halt implementation of these sweeping changes, which have caused so much fear and uncertainty and are likely to be overturned."
“…The deal, between the State Universities Annuitants Association and the attorney general, could put a stop to a surge of retirements at Illinois’ public universities. ‘What this should do is resolve any need for anybody to retire before June 1 of 2015. Which is to say that the rush of retirements that is going on right now because of people’s fears, this should obviate,’ says SUAA’s attorney, Aaron Maduff. While public workers widely dislike (and question the legality of) the benefit cuts in the pension law, Maduff says their situation is more difficult because of differences in the university pension system…” (Deal Reached On University Pensions).
Today, the We Are One Illinois union coalition and plaintiffs filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction in Sangamon County Circuit Court to seek a full stay of the implementation of Senate Bill 1 (Public Act 98-599), pending a resolution on the act’s merits.
SB 1 slashes cost-of-living adjustments, reducing the value of pension benefits by one-third or more after twenty years in retirement. It also hikes retirement ages by up to five years and makes other unfair, unconstitutional cuts to the pensions of working and retired members of the Teachers' Retirement System, State Employees' Retirement System, and State Universities Retirement System.
"The pension theft bill must not be implemented before the courts have ruled. The fair and proper thing to do is not to allow this legislation to cause any damage until the courts have spoken on its constitutionality. Otherwise, teachers, first responders, nurses, and other state and university employees and retirees will be irreparably harmed," said Michael T. Carrigan, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO, on behalf of the coalition.
"People are being forced to make irrevocable, life-altering retirement decisions,” Carrigan continued, “yet they face these decisions in an uncertain economic environment while awaiting a court ruling. The pension theft bill should -- and, we believe, will -- be overturned, but the decision to retire cannot be undone.”
The court filing also argues that the harm to pension system members and the pension systems themselves will be immediate without an injunction, but an injunction would not immediately impact the state’s fiscal situation.
The filing states: “To the extent that the Act purports to fix pension system funding issues, that fix is implemented over a long term. The State admits in its recent budget projections that no savings would be realized from the Act until Fiscal Year 2016.”
Carrigan concluded, “A complete stay of the bill's implementation is necessary to avoid irreparably harming active and retired teachers and state and university employees.”
This afternoon, the State Universities Annuitants Association filed a motion with the court for a preliminary injunction prohibiting the State Universities Retirement System from implementing Public Act 98-0599 (SB1) (a message from the IRTA).
An injunction, in this case, is for the purpose of requiring the State to refrain from diminishing or impairing our contractual benefits and rights until the courts decide on the issue of so-called "pension reform." In other words, a preliminary injunction will maintain the status quo. An interesting note: "Injunctions were first used by the 'courts of equity' to restrain parties from conduct contrary to equity and good conscience" (Law Dictionary).
From the Injunction:
For complete pdf file, Click Here.
The five lawsuits filed for breaking a constitutional contract with public employees will be heard by Circuit Judge John W. Belz in Sangamon County.
from the website of the Sangamon County Court:
Sangamon County is within the 7th Judicial Circuit which covers six counties. Unless otherwise provided by law, there is at least one “resident” Circuit Judge elected by and residing in each county in the circuit. Based on population figures, Sangamon County has two resident Circuit Judges, both elected by Sangamon County residents only. In addition, the law allows an additional number of “at-large” Circuit Judges to be elected by residents of all counties in the circuit. The 7th Judicial Circuit has five “at-large” Circuit Judges with four seated in Sangamon County. All Circuit Judges can hear cases from any county within their circuit. Counties include: Greene, Jersey, Macoupin, Morgan, Sangamon and Scott.
The Circuit Judges are elected to six-year terms of office. The Circuit Judges within the circuit elect a Chief Judge from among their members every two years. The Chief Judge has the general authority for all administrative matters arising in the circuit and may delegate duties as he/she deems appropriate. The Circuit Judges in Sangamon County select, and the Chief Judge appoints, a Presiding Judge to handle administrative matters in Sangamon County.
The law also provides for the appointment in each judicial circuit of a number of Associate Judges based on population and other factors. Associate Judges are appointed by the Circuit Judges to four-year terms. There are currently ten Associate Judges in the 7th Judicial Circuit, eight of whom are seated in Sangamon County. All judges’ salaries are paid by the State. The Circuit Judges have general jurisdiction over all cases. The Associate Judges have limited jurisdiction, except by special assignment.
“Judge John William Belz of the 7th Judicial District: For the past six years, he has been the First Assistant and Chief of the Felony Division of the Sangamon County State's Attorney's office, and prosecuted some of the most high profile criminal cases in the county in recent years. During his career, he also has served as part-time public defender, handling hundreds of serious felony cases, including murder, home invasion and armed robbery. He also has experience in arguing juvenile and criminal cases before the Illinois Appellate Court.
“Judge Belz is currently serving as Resident Circuit Judge for Sangamon County. Judge Belz was appointed to the bench by the Illinois Supreme Court after being rated ‘exceptionally well qualified’ by a screening committee made up of five lawyers and six non-lawyers. Previously, Judge Belz served as the First Assistant State's Attorney of Sangamon County where he tried a number of high profile cases. Belz was also in private practice where he was a partner in the law firm of Huntley & Giganti. Before becoming judge, Belz was one of the few attorneys in Sangamon County with enough trial experience to be certified by the Illinois Supreme Court to handle death penalty cases in Illinois. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and his law degree from St. Louis University. Judge Belz resides in Springfield…”
From Judge John W. Belz
Case Management Conference on May 22, 2014 at 1:30 PM:
The Court allows Defendants until May 15, 2014 to file responsive pleadings. All future filings in this matter are to be filed in 14-MR-1. Matter set for further status/case management on May 22, 2014 at 1:30 PM in front of the Honorable Judge JOHN W. BELZ.
Let us remain confident the Illinois Appellate and Supreme Court judges will uphold the Illinois and U.S. Constitutions as they have in the past; that they are not capable of illegal and immoral thievery like the political opportunists who voted for SB 1, even though Madigan/Cullerton and other committee members would have us believe Illinois judges are incapable of ignoring their own self-regard and, thus, had to be excluded from the bill (Senate Bill 1).
What should we do in the meantime? Become informed about this egregious, calculated theft and educate others about this issue.
I wrote two years ago what if public school teachers united in protest against the attacks on their rights and benefits? What if they stopped teaching in the public school classrooms across Illinois? Imagine if firemen were unethical, like the liars and thieves in the Illinois General Assembly, and they stopped extinguishing fires in their towns and cities? Imagine what would happen if policemen stopped protecting peoples’ homes and their communities, and hundreds of thousands of public employees stopped working for the municipal and state governments?
Perhaps politicians, their plutocratic patrons, and the citizens of Illinois would then recognize the value and service public employees of Illinois provide. Perhaps the citizens of Illinois would also realize public employees’ retirement plans are worth protecting and preserving just like the lives these public employees have been safeguarding, supporting or assisting all along.
I believe the day will come when we will all have to unite in a massive protest reminiscent of the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War. I hope one day retired and current teachers and other public employees will join us in a protest against the injustices that liars and thieves in the Illinois General Assembly have perpetrated.
Please read or reread “Public Pension Benefits Under Siege: Does State Law Facilitate or Block Recent Efforts to Cut the Pension Benefits of Public Servants?” by Eric M. Madiar, Chief Legal Counsel to Illinois Senate President John J. Cullerton and Parliamentarian of the Illinois Senate, Click Here. Unfortunately, Illinois politicians are not listening to Madiar.