Taft-Carter Rejects State Motion to Dismiss Pension Lawsuit

Apr 16, 2014

Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter has denied a state motion to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the 2011 overhaul of Rhode Island’s pension system.

A judge has rejected a state motion to dismiss the public pension lawsuit.
Credit Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

In her ruling, Taft-Carter found that there is “an implied in-fact contract” between the state and the public employees challenging the pension overhaul.

A spokesman for the unions in the suit, Ray Sullivan, says they’re pleased that their case will move forward. The unions argue it was unconstitutional for the state to cut pension benefits that had been promised to them. Says Sullivan, "These retired workers lived up to their end of the deal by dutifully paying into a  pension system that was promised to be there when they needed it. The changes made to the state pension system were undeniably an unconstitutional impairment of a contractual right, and we look forward to making that argument as the litigation moves forward."

In a joint statement, Joy Fox, spokeswoman for state Treasurer Gina Raimondo, and Faye Zuckerman, spokeswoman for Governor Lincoln Chafee, said, “Today’s preliminary ruling was expected and is consistent with the Judge’s prior preliminary ruling in a related case. The State continues to believe that the pension changes enacted by our General Assembly are constitutional and that the State has strong legal arguments to support its positions. We are preparing for trial on all of the relevant issues, including whether the General Assembly’s changes were reasonable and necessary.”

A trial in the legal challenge to the pension overhaul is scheduled to start September 15.

This post has been updated.