CHICAGO — Oral arguments in the case challenging Illinois' 2013 public pension overhaul will be heard March 11.
The state's high court released the oral arguments docket for its March term on Tuesday. The high court previously agreed to expedite its review of the state's appeal. A lower court judge has ruled that the pension legislation violates the state constitution.
The state Supreme Court recently denied requests by Chicago, other issuers, several civic groups, and a municipal lawyers group to file amicus briefs supporting state Attorney General Lisa Madigan's defense of state pension reforms.
Due to the "extensive" amicus briefs, the group of unions, state employees and retirees challenging the 2013 legislative overhaul of four of the five state's pension funds had also asked the court for an extension of their deadline next month to file its key arguments. The court decided against allowing the amicus briefs to be filed and instead will stick to its expedited review.
The state laid out its arguments last month and the unions are expected to submit their formal response this week. The court is considering the state's appeal of a November ruling by Sangamon County Circuit Court Judge John Belz, who found the benefit cuts that impacted four of the state's five pension funds to be unconstitutional and voided the legislation in its entirety.
The state doesn't dispute the constitutional language that grants membership in a public pension system as "an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired." The state's lawyers counter that those rights are not absolute in consideration above all else including the state's police powers to alter a contract. The unions say benefits are protected under the plain language of the state constitution against impairment.