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In another legal loss for city cops, a federal court judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by more than 1,500 city police officers against City Attorney Mike Aguirre and the city’s retirement system.

The police officers had argued that their federal constitutional rights were violated when, in 2005, the city reduced or eliminated their employment benefits by mandating that police officers pay higher payments into their retirement plans, thus reducing the take-home pay of many officers.

In her decision yesterday, Judge Marilyn Huff dismissed the case, referring in her decision to an earlier decision she made in a related case brought by the Police Officers Association, the union that represents city police officers.

Huff ruled in that case that there was insufficient proof that the employment benefits that were reduced in 2005 were vested constitutional rights, and that the under-funding of the pension system doesn’t implicate federal constitutional rights.

This was the second court loss for city police officers in two weeks. On Aug. 21, another federal court judge dismissed a lawsuit brought against the city by more than 700 officers for breach of contract and unpaid overtime.

“So much for Aguirre never winning a lawsuit,” said Executive Assistant City Attorney Don McGrath, who represented Aguirre in the lawsuit. McGrath said that, by his count, the POA has lost six of the seven lawsuits it brought against the city and Aguirre.

Greg Petersen, the attorney for the police officers, brushed off the loss, saying the judge had made it quite clear that there were still unresolved issues in the case, but that federal court is not the proper forum for the case.

“On the minor issue of a federal remedy, the court sent us down. On the much broader issue of the state remedy, the court said the claims involve ‘complex and sensitive issues of state law.’” Petersen said.

Petersen said his clients have retained him to pursue the case in state court.

Bill Nemec, POA president, said he was disappointed by the judgment, but reiterated a point he made two weeks ago: That the lawsuits have helped to bring many long simmering issues for local police officers out into the open, so that they can be frankly discussed at annual employment negotiations.

“This process has really opened our eyes and the city’s eyes,” Nemec said. “It’s really gotten us into the more factual side of negotiations.”

Since the POA brought its various lawsuits, city police officers have received two pay raises, one in 2007 and one earlier this year.


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