NYT runs front-page story on questions about RI pension judge

Should R.I. Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter even be handling the pension lawsuit?

It’s the key question in the case right now, with Treasurer Gina Raimondo and the state’s legal team arguing Taft-Carter is too conflicted to adjudicate because her mother gets a pension, her uncle gets a pension, her state-trooper son will get a pension, and eventually she herself will get one, too.

The issue is such a big deal that The New York Times’ Mary Williams Walsh – who lionized Raimondo in a profile last year – is giving it front-page coverage in tomorrow’s newspaper. A few excerpts from her article:

[Attorney David] Boies, who at $50 an hour is working for a small fraction of his ordinary fee, is seeking a less conflicted judge, and could even ask to move the case into federal court. …

In an interview, Mr. Boies said that challenging Judge Taft-Carter’s impartiality was just “the first step,” and the bigger issue was whether any judges in Rhode Island could handle the case, given their personal stakes. Companies routinely have their pension disputes decided by federal courts, which grant more leeway in changing pension plans.

“The plaintiffs brought this case the way they did to try to avoid federal jurisdiction,” Mr. Boies said. …

Cities, states and their lawyers around the country are following the case avidly, said Amy B. Monahan, a law professor at the University of Minnesota who has written extensively on legal aspects of employee benefits.

The participation of Boies, who famously represented the losing side in Bush v. Gore, brings even more national attention to this case, adding to the spotlight on Rhode Island’s judicial branch. Monahan, the academic quoted by Walsh, last year offered a detailed examination of why the pension law could be legal after all.

  • GaryM

    Let’s be real about this.

    This is a paid advertisement that is published in a major newspaper to get in print the plaintiffs point of view (I know what you’re are saying “I’m shocked to learn newspapers would do this”).

    Attorney Boies can retire on what his law firm will get in fees from other states to handle their pension problems, so his fees are not a favor to RI.

    The position is that an RI judge cannot be objective in this.

    But can any RI or federal judge (First Circuit) be objective on anything these days. And what federal judge would handle this case? Probably magistrate Judge Linc Almond.

    You remember the alleged story there. Senior Linc Almond (Gov Almond) did a deal with then Son of Senator John Chafee (Linc Chafee) that if he would be named as Senator after his fathers death, Senator Chafee would push Linc senior’s son onto the Federal Bench.

    So now Magistrate Judge Linc Almond would hear the states pension case and be deemed objective????

    This is RI politics at it’s finest.

    • GaryM

      Correction – “get in print the defendants point of view”

      • Rachel

        GaryM – I don’t feel confident in your assessment of the situation. Out-of-whack, out-of control-HIGH pensions are killing Rhode Island and the nation! Whenever anything goes too far, it must be pulled back. If they hadn’t gone too far, they wouldn’t have to be pulled back… It’s called intelligence and they didn’t have it – survival of the fittest. Many have NO PENSION and are losing their homes even though they worked just as hard or harder! Wake up! Read Art’s comment!!!!

      • GaryM


        The problem is really that a lack of interest by the voting public is killing RI. That was proven in the last election.

        I’m no fan of the unions and what they are doing to RI.

        But rigging the outcome (judge shopping) only prolongs RI’s spiral downward. Residents have to come to terms with the reality that they are electing leaders who created this problem and a change in leadership is needed.

        Until we do that, we deserve the government we have.

  • Art

    With all those relatives and herself getting or in line for pensions, there is no way this judge should be allowed to decide such an important case.

    • We're Doing God's Work

      Says the son of a state police pensioner…

  • Jeffrey J Brown

    “Attorney Boies can retire on what his law firm will get in fees from other states to handle their pension problems, so his fees are not a favor to RI.”

    Gary, if you are correct and this is his motive, it woould seem that he’s very confident that he will prevail. However, the suits in all the other states will already be well underway by the time this is settled – unless the Governor is successful in selling us all out.

    • We're Doing God's Work

      Remember, it’s costing the state at least $50 per “billable” hour on a no-bid contract.

      Then whine to me about the taxpayer.

  • Polly Tishun

    The only real reason the story is on the front page of the NY TImes is because Raimondo worked in NY in her Venture Capitalist business for 10 years there—became a millionaire with her investments and made a lot of friends including Mayor Mike Bloomberg. So naturally this woman, The New York Times’Mary Williams Walsh – who lionized Raimondo in a profile last year wants to help out and rescue her friend, the arrogant rich b*** millionaire Treasurer…If you people drink the koolaid of this NY Times woman and the GA portraying Raimondo to be the savior of RI’s pension which in turn could get her to run in 2014 for governor, you deserve what you get!

    • We're Doing God's Work

      Once a Romney Bain Girl, always a Romney Bain Girl.

  • http://blogs.wpri.com/2012/12/06/harvards-feldman-disastrous-move-to-toss-ri-pension-law/ Harvard’s Feldman: ‘Disastrous move’ to toss RI pension law | WPRI.com Blogs

    […] “The Rhode Island courts should respect the law, restrain themselves, and make sure that their state continues to be seen as a leader in fiscal reform, not in judicial backlash,” Feldman wrote Thursday in a Bloomberg View column. It’s the second major national press the pension suit has gotten this week following Wednesday’s front-page New York Times story. […]

  • Rich

    Start playing the song “Dueling Banjos” Rhode Island is so incestous.

  • Al Moncrief

    If you do not like the terms of a contract, do not become a party to that contract. Once a party to a contract you are bound by its terms. That should not be so difficult to comprehend.

    It’s not “math,” it’s “contractual obligations.” Why is the RI Legislature not calling for breach of its corporate contracts? Why are public employee contracts the first target?


    The Colorado Court of Appeals has reversed and remanded an initial District Court ruling that denied the contractual status of public pension COLAs in Colorado. The Court of Appeals confirmed that Colorado PERA pension COLA benefits are a contractual obligation of the pension plan Colorado PERA and its affiliated public employers.

    A huge victory for public sector retirees in Colorado! The Colorado Legislature may not breach its contracts and push taxpayer obligations onto the backs of a small group of elderly pensioners.

    The lawsuit is continuing. Support pension rights in the U.S. by contributing at saveperacola.com. Friend Save Pera Cola on Facebook!

    In 1977, the (U.S.) Supreme Court clarified that state attempts to impair their own contracts, ESPECIALLY FINANCIAL OBLIGATIONS, were subject to greater scrutiny and very little deference because the STATE’S SELF-INTEREST IS AT STAKE. As the court bluntly stated:

    “A governmental entity can always find a use for extra money, especially when taxes do not have to be raised. If a state could reduce its financial obligations whenever it wanted to spend the money for what it regarded as an important public purpose, the Contract Clause would provide no protection at all . . . Thus, a state cannot refuse to meet its legitimate financial obligations simply because it would prefer to spend the money to promote the public good rather than the private welfare of its creditors.”

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