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This just in… Illinois Supreme Court consolidates pension cases in Sangamon County

Monday, Mar 3, 2014

* 10:42 am - The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that all four pension reform lawsuits are to be consolidated and will be heard by a Sangamon County judge. The ruling is here.


- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - facts are stubborn things - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 10:47 am:

    proper venue

  2. - Anonymous - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 10:48 am:

    out with the new in the old?

  3. - I B Strapped - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 10:51 am:

    Thanks Rich for posting that.

  4. - G'Kar - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 10:59 am:

    Did the SUAA file their suit in Champaign County Friday?

  5. - veritas - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 11:02 am:

    Any knowledgeable insight regarding what this means going forward?

  6. - Obamas Puppy - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 11:04 am:


  7. - Norseman - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 11:05 am:

    At least 3 out of the 4 litigants are happy. IRTA was against consolidation and they wanted Cook as the venue.

  8. - Roadiepig - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 11:05 am:

    I agree with facts are stubborn things - get it out of the Cook county court system and hear it in Springfield. Should move it along to the Supremes quicker, with less likelihood of different results for each separate case. Good for all on both sides of the issue.

  9. - Langhorne - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 11:19 am:

    Makes sense to consolidate. Who is representing the state? Someone from lisa’s office, or expensive outside counsel?

    My crystal ball (purchased years ago) reveals these fears: if the decision throws out the pension bill, we may end up w the cullerton “health care or annual adjustment coercive approach”, then another lawsuit.

    If the decision tells the state to “pay up”, that may be used by some to push a progressive income tax, which would require all dem votes–esp difficult bec it is a CA, also requiring voter ok. More likely would be expansion of sales tax base, or expansion of income tax base, going after retirement income.

    The whole thing gets murkier if rauner wins. No easy choices

  10. - A guy... - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 11:27 am:

    That’s the second most important thing with regards to this case. Stay tuned for the most important.

  11. - Former Merit Comp Slave - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 11:30 am:

    A guy……Maag ruling?

  12. - Liberty First - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 11:36 am:

    hmm, the ruling says Supreme Court Rule 384 (commonality) is applied in part. So it sounds like the constitutional question will be considered as a framework to guide law and lawsuits in the future. I would interpret this as a win for employees and pensioners given past court rulings.

  13. - Norseman - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 11:47 am:

    === - G’Kar - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 10:59 am:

    Did the SUAA file their suit in Champaign County Friday? ===

    If they haven’t they might as well drive to Springfield to file.

  14. - girllawyer - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 12:26 pm:

    So how is it decided which of the 3 Sangamon County judges assigned to the individual cases gets the consolidated case? Does anyone know? Does the Chief Judge of Sangamon County (Graves) decide?

  15. - Capitol View - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 12:27 pm:

    judicially activate retired associate judge Stu Shiffman to take on the case in the Sangamon County court!

  16. - G'Kar - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 12:28 pm:

    SUAA claims their law suit is substantially different from the others because SURS already has a self managed plan as an option and they are the only one with a Money Purchase Plan that will lose value under SB 1.

  17. - RNUG - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 1:01 pm:

    Although you can never be sure, I expected at least 3 of the 4 to be consolidated in Sangamon County. As others have noted, it will get to the Supremes quick than goign through Cook. We all know it will be a landmark decision and it’s better it doesn’t start with a political taint to it.

  18. - Toure's Latte - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 1:11 pm:

    and away we go. I look forward to the commentary here.

  19. - wordslinger - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 1:13 pm:

    RNUG, as far as “political taint” goes, I’m pretty sure all judges are elected, lol. Given the electorate in Sangamon, the taint might go your way.

  20. - Mouthy - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 1:37 pm:

    Yea! says the SERS retiree…

  21. - VanillaMan - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 1:59 pm:

    This may force some of our statewide elected officials into visiting Illinois’ capital city.

  22. - Anonymous - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 3:06 pm:

    girllawyer, they usually split civil by odd case numbers go to one, evens to the other. and the chief judge picks the fun ones :)

  23. - RNUG - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 3:14 pm:

    - wordslinger - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 1:13 pm:

    Yeah, all the judges are elected but the ones here in Sangamon County haven’t been painted with quite the same tar brush as the Cook County ones.

  24. - RNUG - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 3:20 pm:

    As most of you know, I’ve thought this whole “pension reform” was a political game to be able to blame the ISC for atax increase.

    I got to thinking over lunch if a Sangamon County Judge were to find the law unconstitutional and the State then appeals to the Supreme Court, that the ISC could just decide it was already properly decided and not take the case, in effect affirming the trial level decision and opting out of (Madigan’s?) “blame game”. So the case could end up being decided with a wimper instead of a bang.

  25. - wordslinger - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 3:24 pm:

    –Yeah, all the judges are elected but the ones here in Sangamon County haven’t been painted with quite the same tar brush as the Cook County ones.–

    I haven’t noticed any lack of politics in Sangamon County, lol.

    No biggie. Whatever gets it to the Supremes the fastest is a-ok with me.

    And as someone in the private sector who enters into a lot of contracts — and lives up to my end of them — I’m confident they’ll do the right thing.

  26. - I B Strapped - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 3:50 pm:

    RNUG @3:20-Works for me!

  27. - Me1 - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 4:03 pm:

    After reading all the comments, bottom line, is this consolidation and the Springfield site good or bad for us petitioners?

  28. - Demoralized - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 4:09 pm:

    ==is this consolidation and the Springfield site good or bad for us petitioners==

    If you think judges are influenced by politics, the cynical person would say it’s good because these judges are elected in a county that is heavily populated with state employees.

  29. - gesquire - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 4:14 pm:

    Plus consolidating in Sangamon Co. gets a Cook County judge off the hook.

  30. - Walker - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 4:26 pm:

    I doubt any location bias and believe we will get a good ruling in either place.

    If there were any bias, it would be in favor of the plaintiffs in Springfield, surrounded by state employees.

  31. - Mama - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 4:36 pm:

    Remember we lost in the Sangamon Co court with the Insurance Premiums lawsuit. I hope we get a different judge this time around.

  32. - gesquire - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 4:46 pm:

    If that judge is assigned, I think the plaintiffs might ask for a change of judge.

  33. - RNUG - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 6:22 pm:

    Honestly, even though I prefer Sangamon, I don’t think the venue will make much difference other than the speed of the case. Of course, the judge can make a difference primarily on how much he already knows (as opposed to has to research) about the issues (contract modification, state pension constitutional law) but, again, that will also be more about how fast the case moves. While IL case law isn’t 100% in favor of the retirees, it is probably tilted somewhere between 90% and 95% that way.

    The Kanerva / Maag trial level ruling, IMO, went out of the way to find a justification for ruling in favor of the State; someday we’ll know if that decision was right or wrong.

    I don’t think whatever judge gets assigned to the “pension reform” case will be able to find a loophole … but that’s why we have lawyers and judges, to find the loopholes … so we have to wait and see on that one also.

  34. - enquiring mind - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 9:49 pm:

    Probably a silly question, but does this mean that there will be one judgment which will be effective for both retirees & active employees or could a judge rule differently for retirees under the old plan vs. active retirees which will retire under the new plan?

  35. - Just The Way It Is One - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 10:05 pm:

    Just as I voted for in a recent Q. of the Day, and, I believe, the Majority of those polled did so concur. Good. Wherever. Let’s get on with it, and I hope the Court acts expeDITIOUSly, seeing how much is obviously at stake for Illinois Government, not to mention the thousands of employees and their families awaiting this critical, initial, Trial-Court level Ruling, because as we all know, there’ll be more to COME after that “Lead-off Man/Hitter” is through with his at-bat at it…!

  36. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 10:44 pm:


    This case is kinda like a Cubs home game: probably not much to see, but we will watch just in case anything exciting happens, at least as long as there is beer.

    Truthfully, the arguments on both sides have been aired pretty publicly, and we aren’t really expecting much in the way of facts that we don’t already know.

    The similarities to medical malpractice are pretty eerie.

    I do not think the Supreme Court would pass on the case out of politics, but if it is their intent to strike it down they should not dally.

    Someone mentioned passing the Cullerton bill if this one crashes…do not bet on it…that one passed overwhelmingly with union support…I doubt the unions will support it if this one is struck by the courts.

  37. - RNUG - Tuesday, Mar 4, 14 @ 1:07 am:


    I agree the old Cullerton bill would probably be DOA after a retiree win. And to be clear, it was the union leaders, not necessarily the rank and file, supporting that bill.

  38. - RNUG - Tuesday, Mar 4, 14 @ 1:35 am:

    - enquiring mind - Monday, Mar 3, 14 @ 9:49 pm:

    Painting with just a broad brush, there are a whole bunch of differently situated classes involved in the various lawsuits. Just to name the obvious: ERI / non-ERI, retired / still employed, normal / level-payment, SURS normal vs cash balance, and one category I don’t think anyone has included - no longer working for the State but vested and eligible for a pension once they reach the required age. Each one of those categories have a different level of diminishment attached. You start slicing and dicing all that up, it could take a while to reach a decision and even longer to write it.

    Ideally, it will be a simple ruling the law is unconstitutional, period, due to diminishment and the pension clause protection, which, IMO, should be able to be arrived at fairly quickly.

    But if a court buys into the financial emergency / police powers argument or a court buys the consideration offset argument, that could lead to the slicing and dicing where you have to get into the minutia of each situation. Going that route could end up with a 200 page ruling which, any time it gets that complicated, usually makes for bad case law and just invites future lawsuits.

    So, to directly answer your question, I could envision a judge reaching different decisions for different classes, but I don’t see it being too practical in this case. I’m guessing the court will be pragmatic and just issue one broad decision.

  39. - facts are stubborn things - Tuesday, Mar 4, 14 @ 7:09 am:

    I suspect the court will be eager to send a message to the other branches of government, that the IL Constitution is not to be disregarded. I think Arizona ruling is a likely result in Illinois.

  40. - Vanthony - Tuesday, Mar 11, 14 @ 6:06 pm:

    I’m one of those different “classes”. Worked briefly in the private sector, paying social security, then several years in SERS, and then retired with about 30 years in TRS. So I collect my pension from SERS & TRS, plus a whopping $244 a month from Social Security. Sofar I think I understand everything and how it effects me, but now comes Medicare and TRAIL and the health insurance issues. Thank God for my union and competent state employees, and hopefully honest judges.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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