Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Pension Lawsuit Update (February 19, 2015)

SPRINGFIELD:  The Illinois Supreme Court has announced it will hear oral arguments in the state's landmark pension-overhaul case on March 11. Arguments will begin at 2:30 p.m. in the high court chamber in downtown Springfield (Associated Press).

January 22, 2015

“The Illinois Supreme Court said Thursday it is sticking to its schedule to hear arguments in the pension reform case in March. The court rejected a request by nearly two dozen outside parties to file paperwork in support of the pension reform law and the state’s position that extraordinary circumstances allow it to reduce pension benefits.
“Consequently, the court said there is no reason to grant lawyers representing state workers and retirees more time to file a response to the state’s arguments. ‘In light of the court’s granting of defendants’ motion to hear this appeal on an expedited basis at the March 2015 term, all motions for leave to file briefs as amici curiae are denied,’ the court said.
“The Supreme Court had previously agreed to hear the challenge to the pension reform law on an expedited basis. In November, a Sangamon County judge ruled the law unconstitutional because it violated the pension protection clause of the state Constitution. Lawyers for the state appealed the decision. 
“The Supreme Court said it would hear oral arguments in the case in March and set up a schedule for attorneys to file paperwork prior to the arguments. The state filed its paperwork earlier this month, citing the police powers argument it has used that they said allows changes in pension benefits – despite the state Constitution – in times of emergency, such as the state’s ongoing financial problems…” (The Courier).   

A Comment: 
Let us remain confident that the Supreme Court judges will uphold the Illinois and U.S. Constitutions as they have in the past; that these judges are not capable of illegal, immoral thievery like the political opportunists who had voted for Senate Bill 1 on December 3, 2013 (Illinois Senate Bill 1, the So-called “Pension Reform” Bill (or Attempt to Break a Constitutional Contract with Public Employees and Retirees)). 

January 21, 2015

SPRINGFIELD – “Lawyers contesting the Illinois law that overhauls a state pension program that is $111 billion in debt are asking the state Supreme Court for an extra month to file arguments. Attorneys for state employees, retired teachers and others who contest the constitutionality of the law say they need until March 16, WUIS-FM radio in Springfield reported.

“The high court agreed in December to fast-track the state's appeal of a lower-court ruling in November that the measure is unconstitutional… Attorney General Lisa Madigan argued earlier this month that in a crisis, state officials may use extraordinary powers not granted by the Constitution to fix a problem. Her position was accompanied by 10 friend-of-the-court briefs from the city of Chicago, social service agencies, public policy groups and Chicago employees such as police and schoolteachers.

“John Fitzgerald, a lawyer for retired teachers, says there are new arguments that need evaluation. ‘There are some new arguments and these briefs are somewhat voluminous, and so of course we need a reasonable amount of time to evaluate these briefs,’ he said. ‘Although we believe that the arguments raised ... need to be evaluated and responded to, we do not believe that any of those arguments have any merit…”’ (Associated Press).

December 10th:

Pension Reform Litigation Order:
This cause coming to be heard on the motion of appellants, Pat Quinn, Governor of Illinois, et al., an objection having been filed by appellees, and the Court being fully advised in the premises;

IT IS ORDERED that the motion for accelerated docket is allowed. Appellants' brief and supporting record are due January 12, 2015.
Appellees' brief is due February 16, 2015.
Appellants' reply brief is due February 27, 2015.
Oral argument will be scheduled for the March 2015 term of court.

Order entered by the Court.
Filed December 10, 2014

December 9th:

Union coalition: Preserve fair appellate process:

“In response to a motion by the state seeking to short-circuit the Illinois Supreme Court’s normal procedure and replace it with an unfairly rushed schedule in the appeal of a ruling that struck down Senate Bill 1—pension-cutting legislation affecting active and retired teachers, state employees and university employees—the We Are One Illinois union coalition and the other plaintiff groups have requested that the Court follow its established rules to ensure a fair process with ample time for all parties.

“Attorney General Lisa Madigan has requested a significantly truncated schedule for her appeal of a Sangamon County Circuit Court ruling that overturned SB 1. Saying that a rushed process is unnecessary and could be unfair, the union coalition and other plaintiffs have asked the Supreme Court to adhere to its normal schedule for hearing appeals, allowing all parties adequate time to respond.

“While the state claims to want a decision before the end of May for budget-making purposes, our filing points out that the state’s own appeal seeks only to return the case to the circuit court, where a decision would certainly not come before the supposed May deadline. In short, the state’s argument is based on trying to create ‘a false sense of urgency.’

“Further, our reply notes, ‘The defendants made no effort to consult with the plaintiffs on any agreed briefing schedule prior to filing their motion. The reason is obvious. The defendants seek to impose a manifestly unfair briefing schedule on the plaintiffs’ by severely reducing our time available to prepare required responses.

“‘As we have always said, our unions remain ready to work with anyone of good faith to develop fair and constitutional solutions to fund the retirement systems for teachers, police, nurses, child protection workers and other public employees,’ the We Are One Illinois coalition said. ‘Similarly, we want a fair process for hearing this critically important appeal and have urged the Supreme Court to ensure it.’”

November 27th:

“…Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office on Wednesday [November 26] 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…

“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…” (State Journal-Register).
November 21st:

The Honorable John Belz handed down his ruling today from the 7th Judicial Circuit Court stating that pension rights are constitutionally protected for retirees and public employees in Illinois. 

October 8th:

"Today, the Sangamon County Circuit Court decided it would take up first the motions filed by the We Are One Illinois coalition and other plaintiffs who argue that the Pension Protection Clause renders SB1 unconstitutional. 

"At today’s status hearing, the Court stated its belief that the Plaintiffs’ motions, if granted, will resolve the question of whether SB1 is constitutional. The Court directed the Plaintiffs to file their replies in support of their motions by October 31 and set argument for November 20 at 1:30 p.m.

"The following statement may be attributed to We Are One Illinois: 'As we have always maintained and the recent Kanerva decision confirms, the pension protection clause of the Illinois Constitution is absolute and without exception. There is no merit to the State’s purported justification for the unconstitutional diminishments and impairments that SB1 imposes. We are hopeful for a swift resolution in the plaintiffs’ favor, so that we can work with legislators willing to develop a fair—and legal—solution to our state’s challenges, together'" (Capitol Fax).

"A Sangamon County judge has agreed to hear arguments why the state’s defense in the pension reform lawsuits is invalid, something that could speed resolution of the case in circuit court. Judge John Belz said he would hear those arguments Nov. 20.
"'There are three motions pending saying that the reserve sovereign powers as alleged by the state is not a defense in this case,' said Springfield attorney Don Craven, who filed one of the multiple lawsuits attempting to have the pension reform law declared unconstitutional. 'The court agreed to take those matters up first. If we are right, and the reserve sovereign powers doesn’t work, this case will be over.'
"At least at the circuit court level. Both sides agree the matter will eventually be decided by the state Supreme Court. Lawyers for the state have argued that the state has reserved sovereign powers that allow it, in certain circumstances, to take extraordinary actions. In this case, the argument is the pension reform law is constitutional, despite the pension protection clause that says pension benefits cannot be impaired or diminished. The state contends that Illinois’ ongoing financial problems justify changing pension benefits despite the pension protection clause.

"The reform law limits future raises in pension benefits, raises the retirement age and caps the salary on which pension benefits can be earned. It also reduces employee contributions by 1 percent of salary. Lawyers for public employee unions and retiree groups argue the pension protection clause means pension benefits for current workers and retirees cannot be changed, without exception.
"Those seeking to overturn the pension reform law also point to last summer’s Supreme Court ruling that said even state retiree health insurance benefits are a protected pension benefit. At an earlier hearing, Belz said he wanted to make a ruling at the local level before the end of the year so that the case could begin working its way to the Supreme Court. Before the Supreme Court ruled in the health insurance case, lawyers agreed to a lengthy preparation schedule that would have delayed a local ruling in the pension reform case until sometime next year" (State Journal-Register by Doug Finke).

Commentary on "Reserve Sovereign Powers" 


Illinois legislators are not dealing with a threat to the “public’s safety, health, and morals as well as peace, well-being and order of the state”; nor are they dealing with an economic emergency of such magnitude that they are compelled to invoke powers to protect the state's citizens and, thus, serve a reasonable public purpose or need.

However, hundreds of thousands of citizens of Illinois are dealing with a calculated legislative thievery and, despite Lisa Madigan’s so-called previous “answers and defenses,” public employees and retirees are dealing with a violation to the Pension and Contract Clauses, the taking of property without due process of law and a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and the equal protection of the laws.

There is a history of court cases that have prohibited state legislatures from repealing laws that establish contractual obligations in this nation. Historically, it is in the interests of the “public good,” to protect property rights and respect the Contract Clause, no matter what some politicians conveniently presume otherwise. (There are seven states that have their legal basis for protection of public pension rights under state laws in their state constitution: Illinois, New York, Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Louisiana and Michigan. There are 34 states that have their legal basis solely through contract, six states through property, two states through gratuity, and one state through promissory estoppel).

What Illinois citizens can accurately predict about future contracts with state legislators who believe they have the “power to interfere with the obligations of contracts [that are] specifically denied to the states [in Article 1, Section 10 of the U.S. Constitution]” is that if Illinois legislators “can declare an emergency to exist and abrogate one provision of [both State and U.S. Constitutions]…, ‘this decision serves notice upon [every citizen of Illinois], who heretofore had trusted in the constitutions for protection and believed in the sanctity of a contract, that the constitutions are no longer a guarantee nor security against the abrogation of a proper and legal contract’” (Fliter and Hoff).

“It is difficult for [laypersons] to understand how even 'rational' interference can be assumed to be among the reserved powers of the Tenth Amendment [of the U.S. Constitution]”; it is also difficult to comprehend that Illinois legislators can continue to choose which contracts to honor and which ones to violate now and in the future…

Source for Quotations: (Fliter, John A. and Derek S. Hoff. Fighting Foreclosure: The Blaisdell Case, the Contract Clause, and the Great Depression. Kansas: the University Press of Kansas, 2012). 

from the post entitled: The Contract Clause and the State of Illinois’ “reserved sovereign powers” in Senate Bill 1, June 12, 2014

For earlier Updates in 2014, Click Here.


  1. How ironic that arguments will be heard AFTER the election. So typical of what happens in IL!

  2. Victor,

    There is no irony in this fact, however: most Illinois politicians are liars and thieves.

  3. One thing I am grateful is your thoughtful and inspiring blog. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

  4. From the State Journal-Register by Doug Finke:

    “Attorneys for state government retirees and active workers trying to overturn a pension reform law filed court papers Tuesday saying the Illinois Supreme Court should not rush a decision.

    “In fact, the attorneys said a speedy hearing schedule could hurt their chances of effectively arguing that the Supreme Court should uphold a lower-court ruling that the pension reform law is unconstitutional.

    “Attorneys for the plaintiffs said lawyers for the state failed to prove the need for a speedy resolution to the case. ‘Their motion rests upon a false sense of urgency…’ the attorneys said in their filing Tuesday. ‘In addition, their motion attempts to impose an emergency briefing schedule … that would be manifestly unfair to the plaintiffs.’

    “Last week, Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office asked the Supreme Court to make an expedited ruling in the pension reform case. The office is appealing a decision from Sangamon County Judge John Belz that the pension reform law violates the pension protection clause of the Illinois Constitution.

    “‘A prompt resolution of those issues is critical because the state must either implement (the law), or, in the alternative, significantly reduce spending and/or raise taxes,’ Madigan’s office argued in asking for an accelerated ruling...

    “Lawyers for the state said a ruling should be made before May 31 when lawmakers are supposed to have passed a new state budget. The state’s fiscal year begins July 1.

    “Lawyers for the workers and retirees, though, said the state is only asking that the case be returned to Sangamon County Circuit Court for further hearings. Even if the Supreme Court issued a ruling on Jan. 22, the earliest option offered by the state, ‘it would be impossible for the defendants to obtain final resolution in this case in their favor before May 31, 2015,’ lawyers for the plaintiffs said.

    “Lawyers for the state offered three options for making oral arguments to the Supreme Court — Jan. 22, Feb. 18 or March 10. The plaintiffs’ lawyers said those dates limit the time they have to prepare and are ‘manifestly unfair…’”

    Read more:

  5. If we win, why negotiate? Next, do I get a vote? No, because I'm retired. Did I elect any of these people to negotiate? No! Do I wan to negotiate? No! If the pensions crisis is resolved in the state's favor, will things be solved? No! Will corporations still get tax breaks? Yes. Will the state back out of a promise made to a corporation? Of course not. Already they are advertising for teachers on TV because they already see a shortage coming due to the broken promises. Are teachers telling their children to become teachers in the light of recent events? No.

  6. Regarding the notion of Lisa Madigan's Sense of "Fairness":

    "...The defendants [intentionally sought] to impose a manifestly unfair briefing schedule on the plaintiffs’ by severely reducing time available to prepare required responses... [The We Are One Coalition] want[ed] a fair process for hearing this critically important appeal and urged the Supreme Court to ensure it." Well, well.