As state and municipal governments struggle with their pension obligations, Alston & Bird has been in the forefront of litigation relating to the constitutionality, under the state constitutions, of pension reform measures. Pension reform measures generally involve increasing employee contributions and reducing future benefit accruals and cost-of-living adjustments (“COLAs”). Although these cost saving measures generally do not reduce the pensions already earned by employees or pensioners, employee-plaintiffs claim such measures violate state constitutional contracts clauses or pension protection clauses.
Alston & Bird represented the Governor of Florida in the Supreme Court of Florida, in Scott v Williams 107 So. 3d 379 (Fla. 2013). In this case, we successfully argued that Florida’s 2011 pension reform law, calling for contributions from employees of 3% of pay, and reducing future COLAs, did not violate the contract clause of the state constitution.
Alston & Bird is now representing the Retirement Plan for Chicago Transit Authority Employees in the Supreme Court of Illinois in Matthews et. al. v. Retirement Plan for CTA Employees, Nos. 117638, 11713, and 117728 (Ill.), in which plaintiffs contend that requiring employees to contribute towards the cost of their own medical benefits is a violation of the state constitution’s pension protection clause.
For more information, read this article, "Illinois Supreme Court Affirms Constitutional Protection of Public Pensions,” Benefits Law Journal, Vol. 28, No. 3, Autumn 2015.