Court Denies Motion to add Cities and Towns to Rhode Island State Pension Lawsuit

In an 18-page decision, Superior Court Associate Justice Sarah Taft-Carter denied the state’s motion to add various cities, towns and other governmental entities as indispensable parties (defendants) in Rhode Island Council 94, AFSCME, AFL-CIO Locals, et al. v. Lincoln Chafee, et al., No. 12-3168 (July 22, 2014).

At issue is Rule 19 of the Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure which states the following:

A person who is subject to service of process shall be joined as a party in the action if (1) in the person’s absence complete relief cannot be accorded among those already parties, or (2) the person claims an interest relating to the subject of the action and is so situated that the disposition of the action in the person’s absence may (i) as a practical matter impair or impede the person’s ability to protect that interest or (ii) leave any of the persons already parties subject to a substantial risk of incurring double, multiple, or otherwise inconsistent obligations by reason of the person’s claimed interest.

The Court stated that municipalities are certainly relevant to the action, but not indispensable.  The Court stated as follows:

Municipal entities have no direct interest in this action. Plain tiffs’ retirement benefits stem directly from ERS, and not through CBAs with municipal entities. The implied contractual interest was found to be due to the circumstances between the State and the Plaintiffs. The State was acting as an employer when it enacted the pension statute. This forms the basis of the implied contract.

Furthermore, the absence of municipal entities from this action does not hinder the ability of this Court to accord relief in this case, given that Plaintiffs seek a declaration that a statute is unconstitutional.

Read the full opinion here.

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