Harrigan Leyh Prevails in $10 Billion State Pension Dispute With Two Unanimous Supreme Court Decisions
HLFT obtained unanimous rulings in two related cases from the Washington State Supreme Court. The firm represented the State of Washington and the Department of Retirement Systems in defending two class actions by current and former state employees who sought reinstatement of certain pension benefits repealed by the Washington State Legislature. Tim Leyh argued one case involving a uniform annual cost of living adjustment to state retirees’ pensions (referred to as “UCOLA”) in the Washington State Supreme Court, with Randall Thomsen as co-counsel. The Washington State Solicitor General argued the other related case. The “UCOLA” case involved claims in excess of $7 billion over 25 years. Tim and Randall worked closely with members of the Washington Attorney General’s office in the other case involving a pension benefit referred to as “Gain-Sharing” that involved similar issues and claims of over $3 billion. In both cases, plaintiffs had prevailed in the trial courts and obtained rulings that that the Legislature’s repeal of these retirement benefits was unconstitutional. The Washington State Supreme Court heard both cases on direct review from the trial courts. In two unanimous opinions rendered on August 14, 2014, the Supreme Court reversed the trial courts’ decisions and held that the repeal of the retirement benefits was constitutional and did not impair any contract rights. Both cases are entitled Washington Education Ass’n et al. v. Washington Department of Retirement Systems et al. Copies of the Supreme Court’s August 14, 2014 rulings are available here and here.