Judge Hints Illinois Pension Case Could Be Fast-Tracked

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It’s been a foregone conclusion that the lawsuit against Illinois’ pension reform law would eventually be heard in the halls of the Supreme Court. The question has always been how long it would take to get there.

But a judge indicated this week that he’d like to fast track the case through the lower courts and get it to the Supreme Court as quickly as possible. Reported by the Herald-Review:

Sangamon County Judge John Belz said Thursday that an earlier court decision that blocked changes to retiree health insurance premiums could provide a roadmap for how the pension case will be handled in the coming months.

In July, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that a law requiring retirees to pay more for health insurance was unconstitutional, triggering speculation that the pension changes also would be tossed out.

Belz told attorneys gathered for a hearing Thursday that the court’s decision in the health insurance case was like “an elephant in the room.”

“I can’t stick my head in sand and act like it isn’t there,” Belz said.

When Belz and attorneys were initially laying out a schedule for the case, it was not expected to be resolved at the lower court level until sometime in 2015.

Now, with the health insurance case providing a path, Belz said he’d like to move the case to the Supreme Court quickly.

“As fast as we can move it along within reason the better,” Belz said.

“This can be wrapped up by the end of this year,” said attorney John Fitzgerald, who represents a group of retired teachers.

A speedy judgment would make both sides happy. But there was bad news for the state mixed into yesterday’s hearing; the judge indicated he’d heavily weigh July’s ruling on retiree health insurance when crafting his judgment on the pension reform law. The July ruling declared an increase in retirees’ health premiums unconstitutional.

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