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Sunday, August 27, 2006

None of Us Are Free

It's been a long summer. We've fully moved and have completed a long, fun-filled, and exhausting vacation. We're now steeling ourselves for our daughter's wedding at the end of September and the onslaught of relatives and friends that will bring. Thankfully my daughter is organizing the entire wedding and all we've been called on to do is be the human ATM - but we love her and think her future husband is terrific.

Since my last post lots of little details about PERS-related subjects have surfaced. None of this is "new" information and many of you probably know most of it. Nevertheless, for those of you who spent the last month actually taking a vacation from PERS-related news, here is the brief 4-1-1. First, PERS has delayed for at least a month invoicing the first batch of double-lump summers until October. The speculation is that this is because hearings in two significant lawsuits are scheduled for September 28th and a negative outcome for PERS in either of those cases might delay implementation of collection efforts even further. In that regard, both the Robinson case (concerning section 14b of the PERS Reform Bill HB 2003), and the Arken case (concerning the breach of contract and promissory estoppel claims of "window retirees") will be heard in Judge Henry Kantor's Multnomah County Circuit Court on the morning and afternoon of September 28th, respectively. In the meantime, the hearings on the legal fee reimbursements have taken a rather bizarre (and unfortunate) turn. A closer reading of the Supreme Court's decision to award legal fees to the "winners" in the Strunk case has pundits suggesting that the "winning" attorneys will get to recover their fees from PERS, which will, in turn, pass these recovery charges on to the people who "won" - retirees and actives. Whether this is true or not depends on how the next conference goes on October 19th, but it is clear that the reports from the previous conference (August 15th) did not seem to provide any hope that the losers would pay much "out of pocket" for attorney fees. The costs will just be passed on to members and retirees.

That's the peanut summary so far. Just remember the title of today's post - none of us are free.

P.S. It is no longer simple to full justify these entries. So today's post is simply printed in its native format, not prettified. I know how to do it in html but I'm too lazy to edit the html code.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Money

Today, in Salem, the Special Master Henry Breithaupt, will hear fee motions filed in the Strunk/Sartain case. For those wondering what this is about, the Supreme Court did not award legal expenses to the "winners" in the Strunk Case - the PERS Coalition on the "rate guarantee" matter for Tier 1 members, and the OPRI Plaintiff Sartain in the COLA freeze matter. Now, 18 months after the court issued its ruling, the Supreme Court has directed Judge Breithaupt to collect motions and evidence and hear the appeals of the attorneys for the PERS Coalition and for OPRI present their arguments in support of recovering legal expenses in the cases. I'm not sure what amount the PERS Coalition will claim, but I know that OPRI's legal defense fund is claiming expenses in excess of $300,000. The Supreme Court finally ruled (a few months ago) that these plaintiffs are entitled to recovery of some (all?) legal fees BUT has referred the determination of the appropriate amount to a Special Master's recommendation. (THIS Supreme Court really seems to like punting to Special Masters instead of "just doing it").

This strikes me as another example of this court's lockstep politicization. Instead of providing clear and unambiguous guidance, it provides ambiguous rulings that the losers are free to ignore and the winners are forced to take additional legal action to get enforced. Even the unambiguous rulings are ignored at will or trumped by sleasy backroom deals that seem only marginally, if that, legal. To add insult to injury, even when the Court issues a clear ruling - the plaintiffs are entitled to legal fees - it makes the parties go through yet another special master and incur more legal expenses just to get some determination of *what* fees are to be awarded. I *suppose* that if the Special Master decided to award $1 to both the PERS Coalition and to OPRI, it would meet the Supreme Court's mandate. Some justice, eh?

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