Plaintiffs Gary R. Justus et al and defendants State of Colorado et al have appealed the Colorado Court of Appeals decision that declared that Colorado PERA retirees have a contract that includes their annual cost-of-living (COLA) increases, albeit for very different reasons! Plaintiffs’ attorneys filed Nov. 20 and defendants’ attorneys filed the next day.
Plaintiiffs seek to have the Supreme Court decide “Whether, in a case involving public sector employees’ rights to a cost-of living adjustment (“COLA”), the Court of Appeals wrongly ruled that aspects of Police Pension and Relief Board of the City and County of Denver v. McPhail, 139 Colo. 330 (1959), and Police Pension and Relief Bd. of City and County of Denver v. Bills, 148 Colo. 383 (1961), are no longer good law because, contrary to those cases, there can be no Colorado Constitution Contract Clause violation even for persons already retired or eligible to retire so long as the defendant public entity shows that impairment of the employees’ rights is “reasonable and necessary to serve a significant and legitimate public purpose.”
Defendants ask the Supreme Court to decide “( 1) Whether Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association (“PERA”) members have contractual rights to the cost-of-living adjustment (“COLA”) formulas in place at their respective retirements for life without change. (2) Whether SB 10-1, which adjusted COLAs to their current level of two percent compounded annually, was constitutional because it (a) did not substantially impair contractual expectations and was reasonable and necessary to ensure the pension funds’ long-term viability, and (b) was not a regulatory taking.”
That this case would eventually be appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court was both expected and sought by all parties due to the precedent that Senate Bill 10-001 created in reducing COLA contractual benefits for retirees and those eligible to retire. The two briefs filed this week can be found at www.SavePERACOLA.com/resources.