“The members of the Illinois Supreme Court are difficult to predict on any one issue but tend to follow clear voting patterns, according to Crain's statistical analysis of decisions. They are also politicians, four Democrats and three Republicans, who face the voters every 10 years in increasingly costly elections in which business interests, personal injury lawyers, unions and political parties play key roles, the publication found.
“Legal experts say it's a tough call whether a majority of the justices will uphold the ruling in November of a circuit judge in Springfield who voided the pension law, saying it violated the Illinois Constitution… Some experts say the court tipped its hand last year with its 6-1 decision in Kanerva v. Weems, which held that health care benefits for retired state workers are constitutionally protected.
“However, that case didn't address the question of whether the pension law was justified by the state's police powers, which give broad authority to the General Assembly to act for the general welfare, for example by properly funding education, health care and public safety, especially in light of a pension crisis that threatens to engulf the state's finances. While the justices say they base decisions on the law, there's a political dimension to their roles in a system where judges are elected…
“The pension case involves both public employee benefits and constitutional issues, two areas in which the court often has been skeptical about plaintiffs' cases in recent years. In seven cases involving public employee benefits since Theis was named to the bench, the court reversed two-thirds of the appellate decisions won by defendants but 75 percent of those won by plaintiffs... Three cases, including two combined into one decision, were reversed on 4-3 votes. The others were more lopsided, but the majority varied from case to case…”
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