PPOA legislative representatives are keeping close watch on three public employee pension cases currently before the California Supreme Court. All three cases are appeals related to the Public Employee Pension Reform Act (PEPRA), which took effect in 2013. PEPRA is already a complex law that generates many questions and these three cases could potentially affect the way retirement and health benefits are applied. Here is an update from PPOA Legislative Representative Karen Keeslar:
October 31, 2017: There are three PEPRA cases before the California Supreme Court. The Alameda case has been merged with the Marin litigation. These cases deal with the “California rule.” The CA Supreme Court has also accepted the Cal Fire case. All of these cases are still in the briefing stage and oral arguments haven’t been scheduled yet. The state has a deadline to file its brief on November 6th, although they could request another extension (there have been several) and the reply brief is due November 27th. Then amicus briefs would be due 30 days later on December 27th. Those dates can be pushed out by any extensions granted to the parties to file their briefs. The CA Supreme Court hears oral arguments from September through June. Generally speaking, the court must issue a decision within 90 days of oral arguments.
The Appellate Court decisions in all three cases contradict 70 years of case law on the “California Rule.” The CA Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed the “California Rule” protecting pensions and maintaining they are a vested right. There is broad speculation that the decisions on these cases could open the door to overturning numerous Supreme Court decisions upholding the vested rights of public employees to retirement benefits. If the Supreme Court upholds the Appellate Court ruling that pensions only need be “reasonable,” we are certain to see much more litigation for each agency to determine what is reasonable. That makes it difficult to speculate what might happen to pensions for LA County employees. PPOA will continue to monitor these cases and will keep members informed of any developments.