Lawyers Meet With Judge As Jury Trial in Rhode Island Pension Lawsuit Nears

Rhode IslandThe long-running lawsuit over Rhode Island’s 2011 pension reforms is set to begin on April 20.

Lawyers will eventually argue the law’s constitutionality in front of a jury. But on Tuesday, the lawyers met with the judge presiding over the case to hammer out scheduling matters as the pretrial process continues.

From WPRI:

Lawyers on both sides of the high-stakes lawsuit challenging Rhode Island’s landmark 2011 state pension overhaul met with the judge behind closed doors Tuesday morning as the pretrial process continued.

John Tarantino, a lawyer representing the state, told the jury trial is still on track to begin April 20, as ordered by R.I. Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter last month.


Tarantino said Taft-Carter scheduled four pretrial hearings in the suit during Tuesday’s status conference: for Feb. 6, on motions by various municipalities to be removed as defendants; for Feb. 20, on motions to consolidate; for March 6, for advance rulings about the trial; and for March 27, on dispositive motions.

At Tuesday’s status conference, more than two dozen lawyers involved in the case spent about forty minutes meeting with Taft-Carter in a closed courtroom to work through scheduling matters. Taft-Carter made no rulings in the case on Tuesday. She previously said the process for discovery of evidence will end on March 15.

Taft-Carter had previously set a Sept. 15 trial date for the suit but scrapped it as the sides got tied up in pretrial matters.

It’s highly likely the outcome in Superior Court will be appealed to the R.I. Supreme Court no matter which side wins. However, state and union leaders say there is also growing momentum in favor of making another attempt to end the suit with an out-of-court settlement. Raimondo has said she is still open to settling but does not want to change the terms of the settlement agreement that failed last year.

The lawsuit was originally filed in June of 2012 by hundreds of retirees and union members who argue that the state’s reforms aren’t constitutional.


Photo credit: “Flag-map of Rhode Island” by Darwinek – self-made using Image:Flag of Rhode Island.svg and Image:USA Rhode Island location map.svg. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Gina Raimondo Suddenly Pulling In Union Endorsements

Gina Raimondo

Heading into the primary that took place earlier this month, Rhode Island’s democratic candidate for governor Gina Raimondo had notoriously little union support.

That was due to the 2011 pension reforms she spearheaded. Unions, aside from disliking the policy, thought they never got a fair shake during negotiations.

But now Raimondo is pulling in union endorsements by the dozen. Her stance on pensions hasn’t changed. So how is she doing it? The Providence Journal asked the same question:

What did Raimondo tell these unions to win their support?

Neither Raimondo, the state’s general treasurer, nor her Republican opponent, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, has been willing to make public their written answers on any candidate questionnaires they submitted in pursuit of endorsements.

Why not? They won’t say.


Gina Raimondo is on a roll, with a new endorsement almost every day this past week.

In the last week alone, the Democratic nominee for governor has picked up glowing endorsements from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 99 and an arm of the Service Employees International Union that represents “nearly 1,000 contracted janitors at office buildings in R.I.”

A week earlier, she netted the endorsement of the separate wing of the SEIU that won the right to unionize at-home child-care workers.

Raimondo has now picked up endorsements from 15 unions.

Unions have vocally opposed Raimondo’s 2011 reform efforts for years.

But it could be that they see her as the lesser of two evils; unions could have reason to believe they’d have better luck with Raimondo in office than her Republican challenger, Allan Fung.

But without the release of the questionnaires, we won’t know for sure.

Gina Raimondo Wins Rhode Island Democratic Primary; Pensions Remain Campaign Issue

Gina Raimondo

Rhode Island Governor candidate Gina Raimondo has beaten out challengers Angel Taveras and Clay Pell to win the state’s Democratic Primary. From Politico:

With 96 percent of precincts reporting, Raimondo led Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, 42 percent to 29 percent, with first-time candidate Clay Pell at 27 percent.

Rhode Island Democrats are hoping Raimondo can break a long streak of gubernatorial heartbreak: It’s been since 1992, when Bruce Sundlin earned a second two-year term, that a Democrat won an election for governor. Current Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who is not seeking reelection, took office as an independent but later became a Democrat as he pondered his electoral future.

The primary was of particular interest because of the pension issues surrounding the candidates, and the lack of public-sector union support for Raimondo.

Some further analysis of the outcome, courtesy of Daniel DiSalvo at Public Sector Inc:

Raimondo won for three reasons. First, in a three way race that included the Mayor of Providence Angel Taveras and Clay Pell, the 32-year old scion of former Senator Claiborne Pell, Raimondo enjoyed greater name recognition and outraised and outspent her opponents.

Second, the Ocean State’s public employee unions were divided between Taveras and Pell. Traveras had run afoul of the state’s teacher unions after a labor dispute in Providence and he had also supported pension reform, albeit a milder version than Raimondo. In short, the unions could either back Pell–the least experienced candidate–or they could chose between pension reformers. Some went for Pell, most notably the teacher unions, and others for Taveras. The lack of unity weakened the force of the public employee voting block.

Third, the labor movement was divided between public and private sectors–a phenomenon that has occurred frequently in recent years. Many private sector unions, concerned about the state’s business climate, backed Raimondo.

Raimondo will face Allan Fung in the general election. Fung, who is currently the mayor of Cranston, defeated Ken Block in the Republican primary.