Bob Plain is the editor/publisher of Rhode Island's Future. Previously, he's worked as a reporter for several different news organizations both in Rhode Island and across the country.

12 responses to “Judge to Gina: Negotiate Pension Reform Law”

  1. PinkHatLib

    Anyone have a copy of the order? I’m curious what it actually says.

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  2. DogDiesel

    The pension issues aside, how can a judge who is member of the executive branch, order other members of the state’s executive branch into negotiations with the union over a law passed by the state’s legislative branch? Wouldn’t any agreement need to be filed as a bill and voted on by the legislature? Where are the Constitutional experts?

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    1. Rhody Towny

      A judge is a member of the judicial branch, not the executive branch.  

      There are three branches of government after all.

      Title X of the RI Constitution gives the judiciary its power.

      Rhode Island has a long tradition of Judicial Review of statutes that pass the legislature, starting with Trevett v. Weeden in 1786 (17 years before Marbury v. Madison brought judicial review to the Federal government). 

      That being said, I assume any mediated decision would have to be reflected in a statutory change by the legislature.  So they’ll have to vote on it again, even if Chaffee comes to some agreement post court ordered mediation.  Which makes sense. 

      Otherwise, the judiciary can strike laws down when they conflict with constitutionality.

      And Article 1, Section 12 is a doozy:

      Section 12. Ex post facto laws — Laws impairing obligation of contract. — No ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts, shall be passed.”

      Whoops. 

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      1. Rhody Towny

        So, I think this is why the state has to make the argument that pension benefits were not a contract.  I’m still not sure how they get around vesting people with between 5 to 11 years in and not allowing them to withdraw the funds paid into their accounts from their checks ex post facto.  

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      2. platoscave

        @Rhody Towny:

        Yeah, but this is different than the normal functioning of judicial review, no? A court can issue an injunction suspending a law, or declaring a law unconstitutional, sure, but in this case a judge is ordering the Governor to actually violate a duly passed general law, even before the constitutionality or legal merits of the law have been Flushed out.

        A governor with some backbone would simply refuse to negotiate. He or she would be on very strong legal grounds to do so, regardless of a Superior Court judge’s order. A judge cannot order the chief executive to violate (or not vigorously enforce) a democratically enacted statute whose constitutional validity has not yet been decided. 

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  3. platoscave

    How can you “mediate” a General Law passed by the legislatTrue? And isnt the gov., as chief executI’ve, constitutionally mandated to carry out the laws passed by the Assembly? If so, how can he choose to engage in negotiations about said law, even if a state judge orders him to? Makes no sense, and in any state other than this petty tyranny it would never happen.

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    1. PinkHatLib

      That’s why I’m curious to see what the court ruling actually said.

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  4. simon846

    So, Mr. Walsh, my question about a negotiated settlement wasn’t as inappropriate as you considered it.
    PUBLIC EMPLOYEES WILL LIVE OR DIE WITH THIS EFFORT. i WISH YOU THE BEST DESPITE THE HUBRIS YOU SHOWED.

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  5. Jonathan Jacobs

    A governor with some backbone wouldn’t have campaigned on a platform involving, in part, protecting the pensions of public sector unions in order to gain the support of organized labor. He won by a narrow enough margin to, theoretically, be attributed to his duplicity. We are not dealing with a governor with a backbone. We’re dealing with Chafee.

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  6. Barry

    No backbone?  What an unfair attack on Gov Chafee who has stood up to Bishop Tobin, to the anti-immigrant activists and their talk radio supporters, and to the unions too when he thought their position was unreasonable.  That is because he actually has to govern, to balance a budget, to attract investment to RI, and in his judgement, and mine, the pension system was not sustainable and had to be dealt with.  And negotiating now to try to settle a lawsuit before all the lawyers get rich or the state loses compleyely seems like a sensible way to govern.

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  7. Len Katzman

     
     
    platoscave: “Yeah, but this is different than the normal functioning of judicial review, … in this case a judge is ordering the Governor to actually violate a duly passed general law.”
     
    No, the judge isn’t ordering anything to be violated. The judge is merely ordering the two sides to the litigation to TRY to negotiate a settlement between them. This is routine in almost all litigation matters. I expect that any settlement proposal would need to be ratified by the General Assembly. If the GA doesn’t, then it’s back to square one and the litigation case moves forward.
     
    Sure, the court will make a finding and impose its own solution as is its governmental role.  But wouldn’t it be better for all if the two parties find their own common ground rather than have the court impose its version of solution? Of course it would, and that is why courts always urge (or sometimes order) the parties to negotiate.
     
    The court can’t force the parties to settle. So if the negotiations fail the court will proceed with the case and let it play out as it will. Maybe some people would prefer that, but my personal opinion is that a two-party negotiated agreement is always better for both sides than for one judge to guess at what is best for all.
     

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  8. Jonathan Jacobs

    Or, one could say, he stood up to Bishop Tobin on an issue that gained him national spotlight recognition and political capital with the left but was not tackling the issues that are affecting more than a holiday season. That he went into negotiations with the organized labor only after he failed to stand up for them with the General Assembly and the Treasurer and he saw that there was a very good chance that his side as going to lose in court. One could say th he wasa republicanwhen it served him, now an  independent and is rumored to be considering changing parties again to democrat. Raimondo was gaining national dem party recognition and now her ambitious plan is backfiring and Chafee, who backed her every move while she was succeeding, is now distancing himself from her by “taking charge.” These are not the actions of courage and conviction. These are the actions of self-preservation. Immigration? I’ll give you that one with doubt as to any altruistic motivations on his part. It was a good stance, but the main proponents of the movement in the opposite direction were not formidable adversaries. He ran and won (and I voted for him) on the slogan of “Trust Chafee.” I did. I won’t make that mistake again.

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