The CalFire and Alameda cases moved ahead of Marin
In an unexpected move, the California Supreme Court ordered that Marin Association of Public Employees (MAPE) v. Marin County Employees Retirement Association will NOT be heard as the primary case challenging the “California Rule.” The move is based in part on the fact that the Supreme Court recently granted review of the First District Court of Appeal’s decision in Alameda County DSA, et al. v. Alameda County Employees Retirement System.
As previously reported, the First District Court of Appeal handed a decisive victory to labor organizations and their members in Alameda, Contra Costa and Merced counties by enforcing the pension rights and benefits promised to “classic” members despite legislative efforts to impair those benefits as part of pension reform efforts in 2013. Governor Brown and the Contra Costa County Sanitation District asked the California Supreme Court to review and overturn the Alameda decision on various grounds, arguing among other things, that the Alameda court should have adopted, rather than rejected, the entire holding of the MAPE decision. The highly controversial MAPE decision purported to redefine the long standing “California Rule” restricting the government’s ability to impair vested public employee pension rights and benefits.
The California Supreme Court granted review of the MAPE decision more than a year ago, but deferred action on the case pending a decision in the Alameda case. Now, in an interesting twist, on March 30, 2018, the California Supreme Court deferred further action on MAPE until the Court first decides the Alameda case. As a result, it appears likely the California Supreme Court will resolve the controversy surrounding the California Rule and the MAPE decision in either the CalFire v. CalPERS case, which also concerns the California Rule and the MAPE decision, or in the context of the Alameda case. The Court has apparently taken notice of the extensive briefing of the parties in CalFire and Alameda and narrowed the focus of review for the California Rule.
The CalFire case is almost completely briefed and could be heard by the California Supreme Court in the next few months. The Court could also schedule oral argument on CalFire and Alameda on the same day and resolve all the issues presented in both cases at the same time later this year.
Timothy K. Talbot is a partner at Rains Lucia Stern St. Phalle & Silver, PC. Tim has practiced labor law for over 20 years and heads the firm’s Labor Litigation Practice Group and Sacramento office. He has extensive experience representing and advising public and private sector labor organizations in all aspects of labor relations.