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.

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