On January 19, 2012, PERS became the first state agency to file an argument in the Oregon courts supporting the ability of judges who are PERS members to decide PERS cases. The following is an AP news article about this action.
The Register-Guard http://www.registerguard.com/
State defends public retirement rulings
By Jeff Barnard
The Associated Press
Published: Friday, Jan 20, 2012 01:06PM
The state of Oregon is defending court rulings that have stymied legislative efforts to overhaul the pension system for public employees.
A brief filed Thursday in the Oregon Court of Appeals argues that the “rule of necessity” allows Oregon Supreme Court justices to decide a case concerning the pensions they themselves receive, if there are no other judges to take their places. Virtually all judges in Oregon are on the pension plan, leaving none to be temporarily appointed to hear the case.
The state Attorney General’s Office adds that there is no provision in state law to temporarily appoint non-judges to the state’s highest court.
The response comes in a lawsuit trying to overturn two state Supreme Court rulings that prohibit rolling back benefits already promised to retirees.
One overturned a 1994 ballot measure that limited public pension benefits. Pushed by initiative guru Bill Sizemore and passed by a narrow margin, the measure would have required public employees to contribute 6 percent of their salary to the Public Employees Retirement System, prohibited a guaranteed rate of return for pensions and made it illegal for employees to boost their pensions with unused sick time.
The other ruling said the state can’t roll back benefits already promised to retirees. That lawsuit from Bend attorney Daniel Re argues that the court should have appointed lawyers as temporary district court judges, then put them on the high court.
“It is very significant as it is the first time that a state agency has filed an argument supporting the right of PERS judges to decide PERS cases,” Re said in an email.
Re has declined to name the donors to the nonprofit organization that is paying for the lawsuit.