In 1633 Galileo was on trial before the Roman Inquisition. An Inquisition is an official investigation of heresy, especially one of a political or religious nature characterized by lack of regard for individual rights and prejudice on the part of the examiners. Galileo had publicly argued that the sun, rather than the earth, was the center of the universe. To the rulers in 1633, that was heresy. Galileo’s trial pitted the absolutism of the rulers against scientific facts. Absolutism won.
That fact that Galileo lost is not surprising. The rulers had decided that the earth was the center of the universe, they conducted the investigation of Galileo and they were the judges at his trial. If science had prevailed the rulers’ position that the earth was the center of the universe would have been discarded. That would have reduced the rulers’ power over the people. People would have been encouraged to think for themselves rather than blindly follow the dictates of the rulers. And that was what the Inquisition was all about, protecting the power of the rulers.
Today, a similar situation exists in Oregon. When it comes to PERS, PERS members are the undisputed rulers. Since the mid-1970’s PERS legislators have controlled the legislature and they have made all of the PERS laws. Those PERS laws have been turned into absolute rights for PERS members. After making substantial PERS benefit enhancements, the PERS legislators forced all elected judges in Oregon to join PERS, effective January 1,1984. Thereafter, the PERS judges have consistently ruled that all PERS lawsuits must be decided by PERS judges. PERS judges have decided every PERS lawsuit after 1983.
I have legally challenged the right of PERS judges to decide PERS cases. Oral argument in that case will take place in the Oregon Court of Appeals on August 23, 2012. That case pits the absolute PERS rule that PERS judges must decide every PERS case against a law that allows non-PERS judges to be temporarily appointed to the Court of Appeals to decide my case.
If I win the case and PERS judges are prohibited from deciding PERS cases, the power of PERS members over the PERS laws will be substantially reduced. PERS members will no longer have absolute control over every facet of PERS. The playing field will be leveled so that non-PERS Oregonians will be able to have PERS lawsuits decided by independent judges. That was a right we had during the first thirty-eight year that PERS existed.
While Galileo lost in 1633, his position was later vindicated. Whether I win or lose this case, I believe the end result will be the same. I will eventually win because what I am arguing for is obviously right. PERS members cannot have absolute control over making PERS laws and they cannot be the judge of PERS cases. That is contrary to common sense and the principal of fundamental fairness.