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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Lawsuit Challenges Constitutionality of Illinois' Pension Reform

Coming as no big surprise to Illinois residents and others, a group called "We Are One Illinois Coalition" and a number of named plaintiffs just filed a lawsuit against Governor Quinn, Comptroller Topinka, Treasurer Rutherford, and others challenging the constitutionality of P.A. 98-0599, the pension reform legislation signed into legislation on December 5, 2013. The complaint was filed in the Sangamon County circuit court and challenges the constitutionality of the pension reform law on a variety of grounds, similar to lawsuits filed by other groups against the new law. Harrison v. Quinn, No. 2014 CH 00048.  

According to the complaint, the individually named plaintiffs are currently or were previously employed by the State of Illinois in a variety of jobs, including librarians, teachers, information systems analysts, public service representatives, and corrections officers, and are members of the Teachers' Retirement System of the State of Illinois (TRS), the State Employees' Retirement System of Illinois (SERS), or the State Universities Retirement System of Illinois (SURS).  "We Are One Illinois Coalition" is a coalition of labor unions formed to protect employee pensions. The lawsuit is also brought on behalf of  more than 621,000 other class members. 

First, plaintiffs allege that P.A. 98-0599 unlawfully amends various provisions of the pension code, including changes to automatic annual increases and increasing the eligible age of retirement, among others. Those changes, according to plaintiffs, violate the pension clause of the Illinois constitution that provides as follows: 

Membership in any pension or retirement system of the State, any unit of local government or school district, or any agency or instrumentality thereof, shall be an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired.  (Ill. Const. 1970, art. XIII, s. 5)

Plaintiffs also claim that P.A. 98-0599 violates the contracts clause of the Illinois constitution because it interferes with contractual relationships between the members and SERS, SURS, and TRS.  

Finally, plaintiffs claim that the pension reform statute violates the "takings clause" of the Illinois constitution that states that "[p]rivate property shall not be taken or damaged for public use without just compensation as provided by law" because the State has not offered consideration to pension members to compensate them for the impairment to their pension benefits.

The plaintiffs ask that the court declare the pension reform statute unconstitutional, enjoin the State from implementing the law, and award damages to the members as compensation for their losses.

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink


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