Lawyers brief judge for 8th time on RI pension lawsuit talks

Lawyers briefed the Rhode Island judge overseeing a union lawsuit challenging the state’s 2011 pension overhaul for an eighth time Monday about the progress of their court-ordered mediation to settle the suit.

Attorneys on both sides of the case met Monday morning at Kent County Superior Court in Warwick with R.I. Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter, who is handling the suit, court spokesman Craig Berke said. Last December, Taft-Carter ordered the state and the unions into a formal mediation process overseen by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service behind closed doors.

The latest update happened amid growing signs that the two sides are getting closer to reaching a settlement.

Last month a union leader revealed that the plaintiffs have formed a subcommittee to communicate with workers and retirees about the terms of a settlement. Gov. Lincoln Chafee has said repeatedly he hopes to avoid drawn-out litigation, despite legislative leaders’ concerns about reopening the pension debate.

“If you have an agreement with unions and management that gets us out of litigation – that if we potentially could lose and be costing us hundreds of millions of dollars – and they have to set a budget, too, the General Assembly has to set a budget – common sense will prevail,” Chafee said on Newsmakers Sept. 20.

Taft-Carter has scheduled the next status conference for later this month, on Oct. 28 at 9 a.m. The previous seven status conferences were held on Sept. 5, Aug. 6, May 17, April 22, March 25, Feb. 28 and Feb. 1.

• Related: Unions taking steps to prepare for RI pension suit settlement (Sept. 25)

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