City Attorney Mike Aguirre’s request to have his pension lawsuit heard by the Court of Appeal was denied Tuesday, leaving the case that has become the hallmark of his career up in the air.

Aguirre challenged nearly $900 million worth of retirement benefits to trim down the city’s pension deficit, which currently stands at $1 billion. He argued that the benefits created for employees in 1996 and 2002 were illegal because they were conditioned on the retirement board’s approval of a plan to underfund the pension plan. Those deals were illegal because the board included several trustees who personally gained the enhanced benefits and because it created huge debt for the city without voter approval, Aguirre claimed.

Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Barton picked apart the bulk of the case in December in a ruling that promised to force Aguirre to revamp his case and go after individual pensioners to recover a minimal fraction of the $900 million he was seeking in the lawsuit. Aguirre petitioned the 4th District Court of Appeal to overturn Barton’s decision weeks later, and Tuesday’s ruling marks the rejection of that request.

Tuesday’s decision is the latest in a string of rulings that have shown that the city’s legal efforts to roll back its past pension deals, which have become a political firestorm, are not resonating in the court system.

Aguirre said he was unavailable for comment when contacted Tuesday evening, and calls placed to his press office were not returned. Check back later to see if Aguirre announces his next move in the case.

EVAN McLAUGHLIN

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