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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Stackin' Paper

As predicted, the PERS Coalition filed its class action lawsuit in Multnomah County on behalf of "window" retirees on Tuesday, January 17. Rather than summarize information that is already out there, let me simply quote from an AFSCME e-lert from Don Loving:

"On Jan. 17, the PERS Coalition filed a class action complaint in Multnomah County Circuit Court on behalf of Tier 1 PERS members who retired between April 1, 2000 and April 1, 2004, commonly referred to as the "window period."

The class action complaint alleges that the withholding of cost-of-living adjustments for the years 2003 to 2006 from these Tier 1 PERS members constitutes both a breach of their PERS contract and a violation of the Oregon wage and hour laws, in light of the Oregon Supreme Court's decision in the Strunk case," said Aruna Masih, the top assistant counsel to PERS Coalition attorney Greg Hartman.

In addition, Masih says the complaint alleges that the PERS Board's intent to pursue collection actions against such retirees for alleged overpayment of 1999 earnings would also constitute a breach of their PERS contract, would be without probable cause and would cause irreparable harm.

Hartman's firm is optimistic this case can be resolved by summary judgment. It is, says Masih, a simple factual case that gives Hartman the opportunity to request that the judge grant an injunction through summary judgment, which is akin to taking a shortcut through the legal system's lengthy timelines.

"We can request summary judgment anytime 20 days after the suit has been filed, which means we could enter that request in early February," says Masih. "Once the request is made, we can expect a decision on the request within three months -- which is not long for the legal system, as we've come to understand with our PERS cases. Our request for summary judgment would specifically ask the trial judge to halt the process that PERS has commenced to collect alleged overpayments by retirees. Again, we believe Strunk made clear they cannot do that."

The judge could refuse to grant summary judgment and allow the case to take its full course; that, of course, would add several months to the process."

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