Challengers to Illinois Reform Law Seek Expedited Supreme Court Ruling

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Illinois’ pension reform law, passed and signed in December, remains in a legal limbo that has parties on every side of the issue uncomfortable. As a result, the attorneys behind several of the lawsuits challenging the reform law plan to submit motions that they hope will land the case in front of the Supreme Court sooner than later. From the State Journal-Register:

Lawyers challenging last year’s pension reform law said they will make another attempt to get an expedited ruling in the case in the wake of the Illinois Supreme Court’s decision in the retiree health insurance case.

[Attorney Don] Craven said this new motion could enable the pension reform case to get to the Supreme Court earlier than is now considered likely. Before the health insurance ruling, [Judge] Belz set out a lengthy schedule for lawyers on both sides to conduct preliminary work on the cases. Lawyers for the state indicated they want to use six expert witnesses to buttress their case. Aaron Maduff, another attorney challenging the law, said it involved “tremendous, tremendous” preliminary work.

“It’s a huge amount of material,” he said.

At this point, however, the schedule is still in place and a ruling at the circuit court level isn’t expected until next year.

The next hearing in the pension reform lawsuit is scheduled for Sept. 4.

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that it was unconstitutional to charge seniors a premium for their state-subsidized health insurance. The ruling was of particular relevance to the state’s pension reform law because the legal reasoning behind the judgment was that the state is not permitted to diminish retirement benefits protected by the state Constitution.

Some parties believe last month’s ruling was the nail in the coffin for this iteration of state pension reform. But others say the eventual ruling on the reform law won’t be influenced by the previous judgment. From the State Journal-Register:

“The Supreme Court could hardly have been clearer in destroying the police powers argument in the Kanerva case,” said attorney John Myers, who brought another of the pension reform lawsuits. “What the Supreme Court is saying is you have to fund this, now figure it out. That destroys the whole sovereign powers defense, which is, ‘We don’t have to figure it out, we can impair pensions.’ ”

Attorney General Lisa Madigan has said the ruling in the health insurance case does not affect the pension reform case because they involve different legal issues.

Pension benefits are protected in Illinois by the state Constitution. The reform law seeks to end cost-of-living-adjustment increases and raise the retirement age.

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