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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Stand In The Fire

There isn't a PERS retiree I know who isn't waiting impatiently for Judge Henry Kantor of the Multnomah County Circuit Court to issue his long-awaited decision in two PERS-related cases: Arken et al v PERS and Robinson et al v State of Oregon and PERS. These cases were originally heard in 2006. Judge Kantor issued his preliminary findings almost 6 months ago. His order stayed PERS' ability to collect "overpayments", but did not address the question of whether PERS could continue "adjusting" benefits. Absent any explicit prohibition, PERS has been merrily reducing ("adjusting") benefits for Window retirees as part of the Strunk/Eugene remediation. In the meantime, lawyers from the PERS Coalition and others are puzzled and frustrated by Judge Kantor's delay in ruling on the balance of the motions in the trial. At stake is PERS' ability to "adjust" benefits and its necessity to go back and readjust those benefits to levels ordered by the Oregon Supreme Court in its Strunk decision.

I have been at a loss to understand what is holding Judge Kantor up. Today, based on some rather open-ended discussions with several people, it occurs to me that Judge Kantor is up for re-election this year. His term as Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge expires January 5, 2009. This means he either stands in May 2008 or November 2008, I'm not sure which. If he will be running for re-election, what incumbent wants to have his name and picture splashed all over the papers with a potentially unpopular (pro PERS retirees) ruling. We're rapidly approaching the filing date for the elections and we should know whether or not Judge Kantor has any opposition. I'm betting that Judge Kantor will *not* release his ruling until after the elections, either May or November. He is going to maintain as low a profile as possible until then.

Guess it is time to do a bit of digging at Multnomah County. Perhaps it is time for Judge Kantor to stand in the fire. Or then again, perhaps not. What do you think?


gary said...

I think you're probably dead on about this. I lost my political innocence (and otherwise!) long ago. I've long felt that judges, D.A.s, and sheriffs shouldn't be elected for precisely this reason: they almost always want to be re-elected. When that happens, values such as fairness and honesty tend to take a back seat to political expediency. I'm not sure how some of these people sleep at night.

mrfearless47 said...

According to research, Judge Kantor filed for reelection in early September 2007. That is less than a month after the status conference at which he announced a decision relatively "quickly". He appears to be running unopposed and the deadline for filing to run is in early March. Once the deadline closes, maybe he'll feel confident enough to issue his opinion and damn the consequences.

Lest anyone doubt that the judiciary isn't affected by politics, this seems to be a particular case in point. It will be doubly true if Kantor issues his decision anytime between early March and election day, or shortly thereafter.

It is a sad commentary on the "independent" judiciary.