Retirees: The City of San Diego is appealing the California State Supreme Court’s decision on Prop B to the US Supreme Court.

Joe Flynn, Retiree


U.S. Supreme Court schedules March 18 decision in San Diego pension case

David Garrick, Contact Reporter

San Diego will learn March 18 whether the U.S. Supreme Court will consider the city’s last legal attempt to keep its six-year-old pension cutbacks in place.

The court has scheduled March 15 closed-door deliberations on whether to take the city’s case. The case is a federal appeal seeking to overturn a state Supreme Court ruling in August that the pension cuts were not legally placed on the ballot in 2012.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s website, in a post that appeared Wednesday, says the court will announce on March 18 whether it has decided to take the case, a lawsuit filed against the city six years ago by its labor unions.

The U.S. Supreme Court agrees to take only a small fraction of the cases presented to it.

Federal court briefs show that the city plans to argue the state Supreme Court ruling ignored the free speech rights of former Mayor Jerry Sanders.

That ruling said Sanders violated state collective bargaining law by not negotiating with labor unions before pursuing the pension cuts, which voters approved as Proposition B in June 2012.

The ruling said Proposition B wasn’t a true citizen’s initiative because Sanders used his power and influence as mayor to support it, making him also obligated to meet with city union leaders before placing it on the ballot.

Attorneys for the city say such an obligation violates the free speech rights of Sanders under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

If not overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, the state Supreme Court ruling could force San Diego to pay millions in compensation to roughly 4,000 employees hired since voters approved Proposition B.

The measure, approved by 65 percent of voters, replaced guaranteed pensions with 401(k)-style retirement plans for all new hires except police officers.

The state ruling did not include a proposed solution. Instead it sent the case back to California’s Fourth District Court of Appeal to determine an “appropriate judicial remedy.”

The appeals court is scheduled to begin discussing that in an open session March 11 in downtown San Diego.

Attorneys for the city’s labor unions say the only appropriate remedy would be to invalidate the ballot measure and nullify the pension cuts.

The state Supreme Court ruling overturned a 2017 ruling by the appeals court in favor of the city. That ruling said Proposition B was properly placed on the ballot in 2012.

The appeals court ruling had overturned a 2015 ruling by the state labor board that the measure was illegally placed on the ballot and that the city must compensate employees affected by it.

The state labor board ruling was the first in the case, which the unions filed in 2012.

San Diego is the only city in California to discontinue traditional pensions for new hires.

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