Author: Paul M. Secunda, Marquette University – Law School
ABSTRACT: It is nearly impossible in the United States today to go long without reading a headline about some aspect of the American public pension crisis or about some State undertaking public pension reform. Public pensions are horribly unfunded, millions of public employees are being forced to make greater contributions to their pensions, retirees are being forced to take benefit cuts, retirement ages and service requirements are being increased, and the list goes on and on.
These headlines involve all level of American government, from the recent move to require new federal employees to contribute more to their pensions, to the significant underfunding of state and local public pension funds across the country, to the sad spectacle of the Detroit municipal bankruptcy where the plight of public pensions plays a leading role in that drama. The underfunding of public pension plans has led not only to a number of bankruptcy proceedings, but has also led various states to reduce promised pension payouts to retired plan members or to increase pension contribution requirements for active employees.
As a result, government officials, employees, and retirees are in the midst of litigating for the future of American public pensions. This article focuses on all three levels of American government (federal, state, and local), and reviews the current status of pension litigation at each level.
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