10.02.2014 Public Finance
Laura and John Arnold Foundation Launches Online Pension Litigation Tracker
Houston — The Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF) today announced the launch of the Pension Litigation Tracker (www.pensionlitigation.org), a new website that provides the most current, comprehensive, and transparent overview of public pension reform litigation in the United States. The site outlines developments in recent public pension reform lawsuits from across the country and serves as a centralized, user-friendly resource where individuals can access official court documents and view information about ongoing court proceedings and final decisions.
“This site is the first of its kind,” Stuart Buck, LJAF vice president of research integrity, explained. “It includes detailed information for every pension reform lawsuit we could find from the past five years. The outcomes of these cases may have significant implications for public workers who are seeking — or have already earned — a secure retirement, taxpayers who depend on the efficient delivery of services, and policymakers trying to balance their obligation to workers and the needs of their constituents in a challenging fiscal environment.”
Buck explained that the site contains hundreds of legal documents including court decisions, party briefs, and complaints. Many of these documents are difficult to find elsewhere online and those that are available via court websites often require a fee to download. “By offering free access to these documents through one central repository, we hope to provide the best possible resource for journalists, policymakers, legal professionals, and any member of the public who wishes to learn about public pension reform litigation,” Buck said.
In the last decade, public pension debt has more than quintupled. The unfunded liabilities are creating unprecedented financial pressures, making it increasingly difficult for state and local governments to adequately fund essential public services. Faced with limited budgets and looming deficits, many jurisdictions are taking steps to reform their pension systems. Reforms often involve cost-of-living adjustments, increases in the retirement age or contribution rate, and changes to the structure of the pension plan. Once enacted, the reforms are often challenged in the courts.
Since 2008, at least 35 states and municipalities have been named in lawsuits alleging that pension reform is unconstitutional. Courts have expressed a wide range of views on constitutional issues, sometimes arriving at diametrically opposite conclusions. To date, there is no definitive guidance or uniformity of interpretation on these matters at either the state or federal level.
Given the number of jurisdictions currently involved in litigation and the potential impact of these cases, the Pension Litigation Tracker serves as a valuable tool for those interested in staying informed on the critical issue of public pension reform.