Judge Taft-Carter Says the Lawsuit to Stop Pension Reform Probably Would Have Failed


It should not be overlooked that, in her 68-page opinion approving the legal settlement surrounding the state’s 2011 pension-reform law, Judge Sarah Taft-Carter states several times that the suit to overturn the law probably would have failed at trial.

The main statement of this is on page 59 of the opinion…

In particular the Plaintiffs’ likelihood of success at trial is low considering (1) their heavy burden of proof; (2) the strength of Defendants’ position that the Enactments were for legitimate public purpose; and (3) the fact that many other Courts have upheld pension reform, including changes to COLAs.

It’s then repeated on pages 61-62…

Here, as stated earlier, the Plaintiffs’ likelihood of success is low. First, the Plaintiffs bear a high standard of proof in that they must establish that the Enactments are unconstitutional beyond a reasonable doubt…

Additionally, while many Objectors stress the fact that they have a contractual right to their pension benefits, the existence of a contractual relationship is but one element of the Court’s constitutional analysis. Specifically, a statute may still “pass constitutional muster under contract clause analysis so long as it is reasonable and necessary to carry out a legitimate public purpose.”

…and again on page 66…

In addition to the Plaintiffs’ low likelihood of success, the underlying pension cases have been pending, in one case, since 2010 and in most of the other cases, since 2012, during which time all the Plaintiffs’ rights have essentially been in limbo, to say nothing of the ultimate financial situation of the State.

That the suit was unlikely to succeed was a significant factor in Judge Taft-Carter finding the settlement to be “fair, reasonable, and adequate”.

  • D. S. Crockett

    Ex-governor Gump thank you for your leadership. Thankfully, you are now seeking office in the correct party.

  • jim bedell

    Quite the opposite is true. Our legislators are terrified that we will get to court. Our Judiciary is acting as an accomplice to this stealing of monies that belong to the already retired people who cannot do anything to make up this loss of more than 30% of their pensions.

    The legislators simply want our money to pursue projects in their districts to garner votes and therefore to stay in office. The timing insures that when much (but not all) of our COLAs are reinstated in 18 years, the vast majority of the retirees today will be dead and will never see any benefit.

    If it goes through it will be a disgusting, immoral “theft accompli.”

    Furthermore, the citizenry of R.I. seem to be bizarrely quiet about it. Instead of getting involved to stop it, their silence supports the notion that taking money from senior citizens is preferable to having to pay their citizens’ share of paying what the state owes.

    In the words of Justice Williams, the purported “negotiator” who was commissioned to help bring the parties together:

    “They are not going let you.
    It is not about what’s right or wrong.”

    “You cannot win against
    the system in RI!”

    “Forget what’s right or fair”

    “You have no chance of winning
    in a RI court. The system is against you.”

    These are exact quotes. That about says it all about how unfair, unjust, and criminal this taking by the state has been.

    • Joe Dullivan