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Bristol/Warren Regional School Employees, Local 581 v. Chafee

Superior Court of Rhode Island, Providence

April 25, 2014

BRISTOL/WARREN REGIONALSCHOOL EMPLOYEES, LOCAL 581, AFSCME, COUNCIL 94, AFL-CIO; BRISTOL CIVILIAN POLICE DEPARTMENT EMPLOYEES, LOCAL 1853, AFSCME, COUNCIL 94, AFL-CIO; BRISTOL SEWER EMPLOYEES, LOCAL 1853, AFSCME, COUNCIL 94, AFL-CIO; BURRILLVILLE TOWN EMPLOYEES UNION, LOCAL 186, AFSCME, COUNCIL 94, AFL-CIO; BURRILLVILLE SCHOOL DEPARTMENT EMPLOYEES, LOCAL 2231, AFSCME, COUNCIL 94, AFL-CIO; CENTRAL FALLS CITY & SCHOOL EMPLOYEES, LOCAL 1627, AFSCME, COUNCIL 94, AFL-CIO; CRANSTON SCHOOL SECRETARIAL EMPLOYEES, LOCAL 2044, AFSCME, COUNCIL 94, AFL-CIO; EAST PROVIDENCE SCHOOL EMPLOYEES, LOCAL 2969, AFSCME, COUNCIL 94, AFL-CIO; EAST PROVIDENCE MANAGERIAL & TECHNICAL EMPLOYEES, LOCAL 3223, AFSCME, COUNCIL 94, AFL-CIO; EXETER-WEST GREENWICH SCHOOL DEPARTMENT EMPLOYEES, LOCAL 2636, AFSCME, COUNCIL 94, AFL-CIO; HOPKTNTON TOWN EMPLOYEES, LOCAL 3163, AFSCME, COUNCIL 94, AFL-CIO; JOHNSTON TOWN EMPLOYEES, LOCAL 1491, AFSCME, COUNCIL 94, AFL-CIO; MIDDLETOWN SCHOOL EMPLOYEES, LOCAL 1823, AFSCME, COUNCIL 94, AFL-CIO; NEWPORT CITY EMPLOYEES, LOCAL 911, AFSCME, COUNCIL 94, AFL-CIO; NEWPORT SCHOOL DEPARTMENT EMPLOYEES, LOCAL 841, AFSCME, COUNCIL 94, AFL-CIO; NEW SHOREHAM TOWN & SCHOOL EMPLOYEES, LOCAL 2855, AFSCME, COUNCIL 94, AFL-CIO; NORTH PROVIDENCE PUBLIC WORKS DEPARTMENT EMPLOYEES, LOCAL 1491-1, AFSCME, COUNCIL 94, AFL-CIO; NORTH SMITHFIELD TOWN EMPLOYEES, LOCAL 937, AFSCME, COUNCIL 94, AFL-CIO; PAWTUCKET CITY EMPLOYEES, LOCAL 1012, AFSCME, COUNCIL 94, AFL-CIO; PAWTUCKET SCHOOL EMPLOYEES, LOCAL 1352, AFSCME, COUNCIL 94, AFL-CIO; PAWTUCKET PROFESSIONAL & TECHNICAL EMPLOYEES, LOCAL 3960, AFSCME, COUNCIL 94, AFL-CIO; SOUTH KINGSTOWN TOWN EMPLOYEES, LOCAL 1612, AFSCME, COUNCIL 94, AFL-CIO; SOUTH KINGSTOWN SCHOOL EMPLOYEES, LOCAL 3125, AFSCME, COUNCIL 94, AFL-CIO; TIVERTON SCHOOL EMPLOYEES, LOCAL 2670, AFSCME, COUNCIL 94, AFL-CIO; TIVERTON TOWN EMPLOYEES, LOCAL 2670-1, AFSCME, COUNCIL 94, AFL-CIO; WEST WARWICK HOUSING AUTHORITY, LOCAL 2045-1, AFSCME, COUNCIL 94, AFL-CIO; WOONSOCKET CITY EMPLOYEES, LOCAL 670, AFSCME, COUNCIL 94, AFL-CIO; WOONSOCKET SCHOOL EMPLOYEES, LOCAL 1137, AFSCME, COUNCIL 94, AFL-CIO; WOONSOCKET PROFESSIONAL & TECHNICAL EMPLOYEES, LOCAL 3851, AFSCME, COUNCIL 94, AFL-CIO; BARRINGTON EDUCATIONAL SUPPORT STAFF TEAM, NEARI, LOCAL 868; INDEPENDENT CUMBERLAND SCHOOL EMPLOYEES, NEARI, LOCAL 863; EAST GREENWICH MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES' ASSOCIATION, NEARI, LOCAL 851; EAST GREENWICH EDUCATIONAL SUPPORT PROFESSIONALS, NEARI, LOCAL 856; EAST GREENWICH CUSTODIAL AND MAINTENANCE EMPLOYEES, NEARI, LOCAL 811; EAST PROVIDENCE TEACHER ASSISTANTS, NEARI, LOCAL 896; EAST PROVIDENCE SECRETARIES ASSOCIATION, NEARI, LOCAL 89; FOSTER EDUCATIONAL SUPPORT PROFESSIONALS, NEARI; GLOCESTER EDUCATIONAL SUPPORT PROFESSIONALS, NEARI, LOCAL 857; JAMESTOWN EDUCATIONAL SUPPORT PROFESSIONALS, NEARI, LOCAL 824; LITTLE COMPTON MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES ASSOCIATION, NEARI, LOCAL 860; LITTLE COMPTON EDUCATIONAL SUPPORT PROFESSIONALS, NEARI, LOCAL 862; MIDDLETOWN AUXILIARY SCHOOL PERSONNEL, NEARI, LOCAL 853; MIDDLETOWN MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES; ASSOCIATION, NEARI, LOCAL 869; NARRAGANSETT EDUCATIONAL SUPPORT PROFESSIONALS, NEARI, LOCAL 885; NEWPORT MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES, NEARI, LOCAL 840; NORTH KINGSTOWN EDUCATIONAL SUPPORT PROFESSIONALS, NEARI, LOCAL 864; NORTH SMITHFIELD EDUCATIONAL SUPPORT PROFESSIONALS, NEARI, LOCAL 854; PONAGANSETT EDUCATIONAL SUPPORT PROFESSIONALS, NEARI, LOCAL 858; PORTSMOUTH MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES' ASSOCIATION, NEARI, LOCAL 871; SCITUATE PARAPROFESSIONALS, NEARI, LOCAL 804; SMITHFIELD EDUCATIONAL SUPPORT PROFESSIONALS, NEARI, LOCAL 891; SOUTH KINGSTOWN EDUCATIONAL SUPPORT PROFESSIONALS, NEARI, LOCAL 890; SOUTH KINGSTOWN MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES' ASSOCIATION, NEARI, LOCAL 826; WOONSOCKET TEACHER ASSISTANTS, RIFTHP, AFL-CIO, LOCAL 951; CRANSTON TEACHER ASSISTANTS, RIFTHP, AFL-CIO, LOCAL 1704; NORTH PROVIDENCE EDUCATIONAL WORKERS, RIFTHP, AFL-CIO, LOCAL 2435; NORTHERN RHODE ISLAND COLLABORATIVE EMPLOYEES' UNION, LOCAL 4940; RHODE ISLAND LABORERS' DISTRICT COUNCIL, LOCAL UNION 808; RHODE ISLAND LABORERS' DISTRICT COUNCIL, LOCAL UNION 1033; RHODE ISLAND LABORERS' DISTRICT COUNCIL, LOCAL UNION 1217; RHODE ISLAND LABORERS' DISTRICT COUNCIL, LOCAL UNION 1322; NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, LOCAL 153; NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, LOCAL 68; NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, LOCAL 69; NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, LOCAL 97; INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF POLICE OFFICERS, LOCAL 472; INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF POLICE OFFICERS, LOCAL 555, Plaintiffs,
v.
LINCOLN D. CHAFEE, in his capacity as GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF RHODE ISLAND; GINA RAIMONDO, in her capacity as General Treasurer of the State of Rhode Island; and the EMPLOYEES' RETIREMENT SYSTEM OF RHODE ISLAND, by and through the RETIREMENT BOARD, by and through Gina Raimondo, in her capacity of Chairperson Of the Retirement Board, and Frank J. Karpinski, in his capacity as Secretary of the Retirement Board, Defendants. CITY OF CRANSTON POLICE OFFICERS, INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOLD OF POLICE OFFICERS LOCAL 301, AFL-CIO; TOWN OF BRISTOL POLICE OFFICERS, INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF POLICE OFFICERS LOCAL 304, AFL-CIO; TOWN OF JOHNSTON POLICE OFFICERS, INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF POLICE OFFICERS LOCAL 307, AFL-CIO; TOWN OF BARRINGTON POLICE OFFICERS, INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF POLICE OFFICERS LOCAL 351, AFL-CIO; CITY OF WOONSOCKET POLICE OFFICERS, INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF POLICE OFFICERS LOCAL 404, AFL-CIO; TOWN OF NORTH SMITHFIELD POLICE OFFICERS, INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF POLICE OFFICERS LOCAL 410, AFL-CIO; TOWN OF RICHMOND POLICE OFFICERS, INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF POLICE OFFICERS LOCAL 425, AFL-CIO; TOWN OF WARREN POLICE OFFICERS, INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF POLICE OFFICERS LOCAL 470, AFL-CIO; TOWN OF NORTH KINGSTOWN POLICE OFFICERS, INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF POLICE OFFICERS LOCAL 473, AFL-CIO; TOWN OF SOUTH KINGSTOWN POLICE OFFICERS, INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF POLICE OFFICERS LOCAL 489, AFL-CIO; TOWN OF MIDDLETOWN POLICE OFFICERS, INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF POLICE OFFICERS LOCAL 534, AFL-CIO; TOWN OF HOPKINTON POLICE OFFICERS, INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF POLICE OFFICERS LOCAL 498, AFL-CIO; TOWN OF EAST GREENWICH POLICE OFFICERS, INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF POLICE OFFICERS LOCAL 472, AFL-CIO; TOWN OF WEST GREENWICH POLICE OFFICERS, INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF POLICE OFFICERS LOCAL 517, AFL-CIO; TOWN OF GLOCESTER POLICE OFFICERS, INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF POLICE OFFICERS LOCAL 638, AFL-CIO; TOWN OF FOSTER POLICE OFFICERS, INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF POLICE OFFICERS LOCAL 637, AFL-CIO; TOWN OF NEW SHOREHAM POLICE OFFICERS, INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF POLICE OFFICERS LOCAL 720, AFL-CIO, Plaintiffs,
v.
LINCOLN D. CHAFEE, in his capacity as GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF RHODE ISLAND; GINA RAIMONDO, in her capacity as General Treasurer of the State of Rhode Island; and the EMPLOYEES' RETIREMENT SYSTEM OF RHODE ISLAND, by and through the RETIREMENT BOARD, by and through Gina Raimondo, in her capacity of Chairperson of the Retirement Board, and Frank J. Karpinski, in his capacity as Secretary of the Retirement Board, Defendants. WOONSOCKET FIRE FIGHTERS, IAFF LOCAL 732, AFL-CIO; CRANSTON FIRE FIGHTERS, IAFF LOCAL 1363, AFL-CIO; NORTH KINGSTOWN FIRE FIGHTERS, IAFF LOCAL 1651, AFL-CIO; TIVERTON FIRE FIGHTERS, IAFF LOCAL 1703, AFL-CIO; BARRINGTON FIRE FIGHTERS, IAFF LOCAL 1774, AFL-CIO; MIDDLETOWN FIRE FIGHTERS, IAFF LOCAL 1933, AFL-CIO; JOHNSTON FIRE FIGHTERS, IAFF LOCAL 1950, AFL-CIO; SMITHFIELD FIRE FIGHTERS, IAFF LOCAL 2050, AFL-CIO; NORTH PROVIDENCE FIRE FIGHTERS, IAFF LOCAL 2334, AFL-CIO; NORTH CUMBERLAND FIRE FIGHTERS, IAFF LOCAL 2722, AFL-CIO; CUMBERLAND RESCUE SERVICE, IAFF LOCAL 2725, AFL-CIO; VALLEY FALLS FIRE FIGHTERS, IAFF LOCAL 2729, AFL-CIO; CUMBERLAND HILL FIRE FIGHTERS, IAFF LOCAL 2762, AFL-CIO; LINCOLN RESCUE AND FIRE FIGHTERS, IAFF LOCAL 3023, AFL-CIO; COVENTRY FIRE FIGHTERS, IAFF 3240, AFL-CIO; EAST GREENWICH FIRE FIGHTERS, IAFF LOCAL 3328, AFL-CIO; SOUTH KINGSTOWN EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES, IAFF LOCAL 3365, AFL-CIO; COVENTRY FIRE FIGHTERS, IAFF LOCA 3372, AFL-CIO; FOSTER EMERGENCY SERVICES, IAFF LOCAL 3422, AFL-CIO; NORTH SMITHFIELD FIRE FIGHTERS, IAFF LOCAL 3984, AFL-CIO; CUMBERLAND FIRE FIGHTERS, IAFF LOCAL 4114, AFL-CIO; WEST GREENWICH FIRE AND RESCUE, IAFF LOCAL 4771, AFL-CIO, Plaintiffs,
v.
LINCOLN D. CHAFEE, in his capacity as GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF RHODE ISLAND; GINA RAIMONDO, in her capacity as the General Treasurer of the State of Rhode Island; and the EMPLOYEES' RETIREMENT SYSTEM OF RHODE ISLAND, by and through the RETIREMENT BOARD, by and through Gina Raimondo, in her capacity of Chairperson of the Retirement Board, and Frank J. Karpinski, in his capacity as Secretary of the Retirement Board, Defendants.

Providence County Superior Court

DECISION

TAFT-CARTER, J.

Plaintiffs in C.A. No. 2012-3167 consist of a number of local affiliates of the AFSCME, Council 94, representing general municipal employees. Plaintiffs in C.A. No. 2012-3169 consist of a number of local affiliates of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, representing municipal police officers. Plaintiffs in C.A. No. 2012-3579 consist of a number of local affiliates of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), representing municipal fire fighters. Plaintiffs in C.A. No. 2012-3167, C.A. No. 2012-3169, and C.A. No. 2012-3579 (collectively, Plaintiffs) filed the underlying actions against the Governor and General Treasurer of the State of Rhode Island, the Employees' Retirement System of the State of Rhode Island, by and through the Retirement Board and the Chairman and Secretary of the Retirement Board (collectively, Defendants), challenging the constitutionality of the Rhode Island Retirement Security Act (RIRSA) of 2011. Before this Court is Defendants' Motion for More Definite Statement pursuant to Super. R. Civ. P 12(e) (Rule 12(e)) or, in the alternative, a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Super. R. Civ. P 12(b)(6) (Rule 12(b)(6)). Plaintiffs filed a consolidated objection to these motions. The instant motions concern three cases raising common issues of fact and law. For the purposes of judicial economy, this Court issues one Decision applying to each of the three separate actions.

I Facts and Travel

The Employees' Retirement System of Rhode Island (ERSRI), established by legislation in 1936, is a retirement system for state employees, school teachers, and other employees of cities and towns that chose to participate. See G.L. 1956 §§ 36-8-1 et seq. The ERSRI is administered by the Retirement Board (Board), which is chaired by the State Treasurer. Sec. 36-8-4. Amongst the retirement plans administered by the Retirement Board is the Municipal Employees' Retirement System (MERS), whose members are made up of general municipal employees, fire fighters, and police officers. G.L. 1956 §§ 45-21-1 et seq. The MERS was established by the State in 1951, allowing participating cities and towns to offer their workers retirement benefits.

The ERSRI provides MERS participants a mandatory, contributory defined benefit plan under which participants contribute a statutorily set percentage of their annual salary in exchange for a fixed retirement allowance, based on a formula for years of service and salary level achieved. Those cities or towns with MERS allocate assets and liabilities. They are combined for investment purposes but remain separated to pay the pension of each municipality's employees. Employees become "vested" and entitled to receive a pension from the ERSRI upon making ten years of payments into the ERSRI. See § 45-21-16.

The retirement allowance becomes payable to participants in equal monthly installments after retirement. In addition to the retirement allowance, the pension benefits have been compounded by a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA). The intent of a COLA is to maintain the real value of a person's pension, in light of changes to the cost of living occurring over the life of retirement. In 1968, the State provided for an alternative optional retirement plan for municipal police and fire fighters that included an option for a twenty year retirement allowance, regardless of age, equal to two and one-half percent of final compensation multiplied by the years of total service, to a maximum of seventy-five percent of final compensation. Sec. 45-21-2. The Plaintiff Unions also entered into collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) with their respective employers that provide for retirement benefits, including COLAs.

In November 2011, the General Assembly enacted the RIRSA, which altered the standards for retirement for employees in the retirement system.[1] The RIRSA changed the structure of the retirement program from a traditional defined benefit plan to a "hybrid plan" with a smaller defined benefit plan and a supplemental defined contribution plan. In creating this new supplemental defined contribution plan, the RIRSA diverted the majority of the contributions of the participants in the ERSRI into the separate defined contribution plan. The RIRSA also requires employees who were eligible to retire but had not yet retired as of June 30, 2012 to elect either to receive no further accrual towards retirement in their defined benefit plan, notwithstanding continued mandatory contributions, or to receive a reduced value for further services. The RIRSA further requires employees who were not eligible to retire as of June 30, 2012 to either work longer to receive the monthly pension benefit or to accept a reduced pension benefit, thus requiring more years of service to reach the previous benefit level. The RIRSA also permanently reduced all COLAs to apply only to the first $25, 000 of a person's retirement allowance as well as suspended COLAs, except for every five years until the ERSRI is funded to eighty percent, which is estimated to take at least sixteen years. For police and fire fighters, the RIRSA increased the minimum service requirement from twenty years to twenty-five years and set in place a minimum retirement age of fifty-five years.

In June and July of 2012, Plaintiff Unions filed suit on behalf of their members, which includes employees who had at least ten years of contributory service and employees whose respective CBAs provided for their retirement benefits.[2] Plaintiffs assert that RIRSA is unconstitutional under the Contract Clause, the Due Process Clause, and the Takings Clause of the Rhode Island Constitution. Defendants filed the instant Motion for More Definite Statement or, in the alternative, Motion to Dismiss for failure to state a claim. Plaintiffs have filed a consolidated objection. Plaintiffs and Defendants have argued their respective positions and this Court is now prepared to issue its Decision.

II

Standard of Review

A

Rule 12(e)

It is well settled in Rhode Island that the role of a Rule 12(e) motion is limited. See 1 Robert B. Kent et al., Rhode Island Civil and Appellate Procedure § 12:15 (West 2006). However, in those instances when a court determines that a pleading is too vague and ambiguous, the court may, in its discretion, grant a motion for more definite statement under Rule 12(e).[3] Id.; see also Mitchell v. E-Z Way Towers, Inc., 269 F.2d 126, 130 (5th Cir.1959) (explaining that unlike a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a motion for more definite statement involves the exercise of the trial justice's sound and considered discretion). When determining a motion for more definite statement, a court must review the pleading to ensure it is drafted in a manner that allows a defendant to "understand the nature and extent of the charges against him [or her] and to enable him to prepare generally for trial." Buck v. Keenan, 1 F.R.D. 558, 559 (D.R.I. 1941). A court should grant a motion for more definite statement when the complaint, as framed, denies the defendant the ability to properly respond. Oresman v. G.D. Searle & Co., 321 F.Supp. 449, 458 (D.R.I. 1971) (citing Schadler v. Reading Eagle Publ'ns, Inc., 370 F.2d 795 (3d Cir. 1967)). A complaint satisfying the requirements of Super. R. Civ. P. 8 (Rule 8), as pertains to providing fair and adequate notice of the types of claims being asserted, is not subject to a more definite statement. See 1 Kent at § 12:15; see also Haley v. Town of Lincoln, 611 A.2d 845, 848 (R.I. 1992); Rule 8.

B Rule 12(b)(6)

"A motion under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the complaint about whether it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Boyer v. Bedrosian, 57 A.3d 259, 270 (R.I. 2012). "The standard for granting a motion to dismiss is a difficult one for the movant to meet." Id. (quoting Pellegrino v. R.I. Ethics Comm'n, 788 A.2d 1119, 1123 (R.I. 2002)). "Rule 12(b)(6) does not deal with the likelihood of success on the merits, but rather with the viability of a plaintiff's bare-bones allegations and claims as they are set forth in the complaint." Hyatt v. Vill. House Convalescent Home, Inc., 880 A.2d 821, 823 (R.I. 2005). When ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court's review is confined to the four corners of the pleadings. See Palazzo v. Alves, 944 A.2d 144, 149 (R.I. 2008). A court must "'assume that the allegations contained in the complaint are true, and examine the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.'" Boyer, 57 A.3d at 270 (quoting Pellegrino, 788 A.2d at 1123); see also Palazzo, 944 A.2d at 149; Multi-State Restoration, Inc. v. DWS Properties, LLC, 61 A.3d 414, 417 (R.I. 2013). Thus, "[i]f it ...


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