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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Jigsaw Falling Into Place

We had a pretty good turnout for yesterday's poll. About 77% of the respondents wanted Governor Ted Kulongoski to advise the PERS Board to settle the litigation with the PERS Coalition and be done with this mess. I'm not really surprised by those results, as that has been what the PERS Coalition has been aiming for all along. We want OUR settlement agreement along the lines of the City of Eugene settlement agreement, only in reverse. This time we want what we have won, legally, in court. If we happen to win the Arken case outright, that is icing on the cake, but we've already won and people just can't figure out why we have to keep fighting to get what is already ours.

The perverse twist in all this is that we've got this California law firm, called Orrick, that keeps billing PERS at $750 per hour and has no incentive to settle. They've got this cash cow going and they're milking PERS (the members and retirees) for every nickel it can get. Digging deeper into this manure, Orrick has its fingerprints all over Oregon government, dating back to at least the 1980's. So they've been suckling at the public teat for a very long time. What's odd is that if you look at Orrick's legal portfolio, they clearly have little or no experience in public employee retirement plans or litigation thereof. You have to wonder why, of all the law firms in the US, in Oregon, in the Northwest, would a Public EmployEE Retirement System hire a firm with so demonstrably little experience in litigating pension legislation. Head wide boy Joe Malkin, who oozes sleaze from every pore, specializes in "high stakes litigation" and has represented such clients as the tobacco and drug industry. While I realize that the current PERS litigation is "high stakes" (for retirees, chump change for PERS), nothing in it has any resemblance to product liability litigation. Maybe I'm just living in a different world, one where you'd choose your attorney on the basis of his/her skill set in representing your interests in the type of litigation needed. While I haven't a shred of evidence to support my conjecture, I'd almost be willing to bet that there's a Neil Goldschmidt connection somewhere in all this. Orrick just appears, like Minerva from the brow of Zeus, to rescue PERB in about October 2003, about one month after the new PERS Board takes over and not long before the Goldschmidt scandal breaks into the wide open. I've scoured the net and I find all sorts of possible connections and exposure to Orrick by current PERB members. Maybe they just knew Orrick's work and it was the first name that rolled off their collective tongues. Perhaps they didn't think that Stoel, Rives' great pension attorney - Greg Macpherson - might have a recommendation (or maybe he did. Wonder if Macpherson's run for AG is being financed in any way by donations from Orrick? Note to self - check finance lists).

This post is beginning to wander. In any case, the poll indicates that a large percentage of our readers today think Governor Kulongoski should get on the PERS Board's case to settle the litigation and move on. And I suspect that won't happen, not because of what we think or even what the Governor thinks, but because Orrick is milking too much money out of these cases to quit. Ah, I can see the jigsaw pieces falling into place.


badgergirl said...

What is delaying Judge Kantor in clarifying his decision? Are politics and timing factors in this delay?
I would like to exert pressure, but I don't know how to be most effective.

mrfearless47 said...

Judge Kantor has a full case load and no law clerks to help him with decisions. I suspect that there is nothing specific delaying him except the fact that this is a complicated case and he probably wants to make sure his ruling isn't overturned by a higher court. That usually leads to extreme judicial caution. In point of fact, I have no idea what is taking him so long, but I do know the realities of trying to work in Multnomah County with no support staff. I think Judge Kantor is well aware of the importance of this case and I doubt there is anything we can do to speed him up.