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In re Pension Cases

Superior Court of Rhode Island

March 18, 2015

In re Pension Cases

Superior Court Providence County

ATTORNEYS:

Lynette Labinger, Samuel D. Zurier, Stephen M. Robinson, Stephen Adams, Andrew D. Henneous, Matthew T. Oliverio, Jon Anderson, Mackenzie Mango, Marc DeSisto, William J. Conley, Jr., Raymond Marcaccio, Arthur G. Capaldi, Matthew Jerzyk, David R. Petrarca, Peter D. Ruggiero, Andrew A. Thomas, David P. Martland, Sara Rapport, Timothy C. Cavazza, Albert B. West, Diana E. Pearson, David D'Agostino, Brian LaPlante, Erica S. Pistorino, William M. Dolan, III, Nicholas Nybo, William K. Wray, Jr., Vincent F. Ragosta, D. Peter DeSimone, Gerald J. Petros, Andrew S. Tugan, Thomas R. Landry, Gregory P. Piccirilli, Gary Gentile, Esq., Joseph F. Penza, Jr., Douglas L. Steele, Sara Conrath, Mark Gursky, Elizabeth A. Wiens, Michael B. Forte, Jr., Sean T. O'Leary, Rebecca T. Partington, Kelly A. McElroy, Carly Beauvais Iafrate, Jonathan F. Whaley, Jay E. Sushelsky, John A. Tarantino, Patricia K. Rocha, Joseph Avanzato, Nicole J. Benjamin, Rebecca T. Partington, Kelly A. McElroy.

DECISION

TAFT-CARTER, J.

Before this Court are the Plaintiffs' Consolidated Motion in Limine as to the Burden of Proof on their Contract Clause Claim; the State Defendants' objection to the Plaintiffs' Consolidated Motion; the State Defendants'[1] own Motion in Limine as to the Burden of Proof for Contract Clause claims; and the Municipal Defendants' Objection to the Plaintiffs' Consolidated Motion.[2]

I

Facts and Travel

These consolidated cases are collectively known as the Pension Cases. The pertinent facts underlying these lawsuits are outlined in this Court's prior decisions relating to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and Defendants' motion for a more definite statement. See, e.g., R.I. Council 94 v. Carcieri, 2011 WL 4198506 (R.I. Super. Sept. 13, 2011) (denying the defendants' motion for summary judgment and finding that the plaintiff state and local employees were parties to an implied contract with the state) (Pension I); R.I. Council 94 v. Chafee, 2014 WL 1743149 (R.I. Super. Apr. 25, 2014) (denying the defendants' motion for a more definite statement and motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim); Rhode Island Public Emps.' Retiree Coal. v. Chafee, 2014 WL 1577496 (R.I. Super. Apr. 16, 2014) (denying the defendants' motion to dismiss); Bristol/Warren Reg'l Sch. Emps. v. Chafee, 2014 WL 1743142 (R.I. Super. Apr. 25, 2014) (denying the defendants' motion for a more definite statement and motion to dismiss). This Court incorporates by reference its recounting of the facts in its previous decisions.

The parties have each filed separate Motions in Limine asking this Court to rule on the appropriate burden of proof for the Plaintiffs' Contract Clause claims at trial. This Court heard oral arguments on March 6, 2015 and now issues its Decision.

II

Analysis

In these motions in limine, the parties have asked the Court to develop the order of the trial by allocating the parties' burden of proof. The Plaintiffs argue that the burden of proof for their Contract Clause claim should follow the structure set forth in this Court's prior decision in an unrelated case, Andrews v. Lombardi, 2014 WL 1120350 (R.I. Super. Mar. 18, 2014). In that case, the Court found that the defendant had the burden of production for the second and third prong of the Contract Clause test. See id. at *7. The Andrews case is distinguishable from this case in both its procedural posture as well as the arguments advanced at hearing. The case is non-binding and as such will not be addressed further.

The Defendants argue that the Plaintiffs bear the burden of proving each and every element of the Contract Clause beyond a reasonable doubt. The argument is premised on the precedent established by our Supreme Court, as well as a recent case which reiterated that "every statute enacted by the Legislature is presumed constitutional and will not be invalidated by this Court unless the party challenging the statute proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the legislative enactment is unconstitutional." Parella v. Montalbano, 899 A.2d 1226, 1232-33 (R.I. 2006) (emphasis in original). In Parella, our Supreme Court affirmed that the trial court "was correct in allocating this time-honored burden of proof-beyond a reasonable doubt-to the plaintiffs." Id. at 1233. According to the Defendants, the presumption of constitutionality requires that the burden of proof remain on the Plaintiffs to prove every element of their Contract Clause claim beyond a reasonable doubt, and that no portion of this burden may be shifted.

It is well-settled that legislative enactments are presumed to be constitutional. See Narragansett Indian Tribe v. Rhode Island, No. 12-322-A (R.I. Mar. 4, 2015) ("[L]egislative enactments of the General Assembly are presumed to be valid and constitutional."); see also City of Pawtucket v. Sundlun, 662 A.2d 40, 45 (R.I. 1995) ("[A]ll laws regularly enacted by the Legislature are presumed to be constitutional and valid."). This presumption is such that "the party challenging the constitutional validity of a statute carries the burden of persuading the court beyond a reasonable doubt that the legislation violates an identifiable aspect of the ...


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