Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Barton told lawyers involved in the city’s major pension lawsuit that he will issue ruling on the opening phase of the ongoing trial by Dec. 14.

He also said that if the case should proceed to the third phase of the trial, when the conflict-of-interest and debt-limit violation issues will be argued, that a jury could be empanelled as early as Jan. 2.

Attorneys met with the judge Thursday to go over scheduling of the sprawling trial, which began in late October.

In the first phase, the employees who are trying to protect their benefits from City Attorney Mike Aguirre’s challenge argued that existing legal obstacles prevented Aguirre’s $900 million case from moving forward. Closing arguments for that segment of the trial were held last week.

The trial’s second stage, which is slated to begin Dec. 27, will deal with the statute of limitations issues that may prevent Aguirre from bringing his case.

The third phase, if necessary, would allow a jury to vet Aguirre’s claims that pension deals the city struck with its retirement board in 1996 and 2002 were in violation of laws that prohibit public officials from participating in contracts that they gain from personally and ban governments from incurring long-term debt without a public vote.

EVAN McLAUGHLIN

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