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Attorneys involved in the city of San Diego’s main pension lawsuit are eagerly awaiting a Superior Court judge’s final decision on the amount of money that is at play in the case, should it go to trial.

A final decision was expected to be released by the end of the week, but a clerk in the judge’s courtroom said late Friday afternoon that none was issued.

Judge Jeffrey Barton tentatively ruled Sept. 22 to trim down the amount of pension benefits that City Attorney Mike Aguirre could challenge in the case, although the amount at stake is up for interpretation.

The outcome of a final order will likely focus on the value of a 2000 court settlement, known as Corbett, that Barton has tentatively ruled as being off-limits for the purposes of Aguirre’s challenge.

If that decision sticks, the $500 million that Aguirre estimated to be at stake in his litigation could be chopped to about $450 million or even as low as $40 million.

The settlement came between the two controversial pension deals that the city struck with its retirement system in 1996 and 2002.

Employees said that the entire benefit package that was in place after the approval of the Corbett settlement should be protected from Aguirre’s litigation, leaving only the approximately $40 million that the 2002 deal was worth.

Aguirre claims that Corbett only raises benefits by a percentage, and that the amount of the increase is what would be safeguarded while the remaining $450 million would be vulnerable to the lawsuit.

Barton grappled with this issue and others during the two-day oral arguments that took place a few weeks ago.

The judge’s provisional opinion also denied claims by the employees and the retirement system that the case should be thrown out.

If the case proceeds to trial, hearings are set to begin Oct. 25.

Check back for updates.

EVAN McLAUGHLIN

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