The Morning Report
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Attorneys in the ongoing pension lawsuit are scheduled to deliver their closing statements for the first phase of the trial Wednesday.

Judge Jeffrey Barton requested that City Attorney Mike Aguirre and legal counsel for city employees use only two-and-a-half hours each to present their final arguments over a handful of legal questions that will significantly shape the stakes of the case.

Aguirre filed the lawsuit last year to set aside benefits that were granted to employees in 1996 and 2002 as part of agreements with the retirement board that allowed the city to pay less to the pension fund than it owed. The new benefits and underfunding practices that were allowed under the deals have contributed to the bulk of the city’s current $1.4 billion pension deficit.

According to a city-hired actuary, the maximum value of Aguirre’s attack on employees’ retirement benefits is about $900 million, although past court settlements and legal protections to workers’ pensions could trim the value of the challenge.

Those potential obstacles for Aguirre are being flushed out in this first segment of the case, which began Oct. 30. The judge posed five questions for the attorneys.

If Aguirre can move the case past that first set of hurdles, the trial will move to a second phase where the discussion will focus on whether the statute of limitations bar the lawsuit from moving forward.

The merits of Aguirre’s original claims – that the deals violated city and state laws governing debt and the behavior of public officials – will be at issue if the case reaches a third phase.

Wednesday’s hearing will take place at 9 a.m. in Department 69 of the Superior Court’s Hall of Justice.

EVAN McLAUGHLIN

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