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Ruling Blocks Aguirre from Challenging Pension Hikes

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San Diego City Attorney Mike Aguirre’s plan to appeal a court ruling in a pension case has been delayed. The ruling blocked him from challenging most of the pension hikes for city hall workers.

Judge Jeffrey Barton’s ruling last week allows Aguirre to contest only a small portion of the benefit increases granted to city workers in 2002.

Aguirre had sought to overturn retirement boosts for all employees that were granted in 2002 and 1996. He says the deals that created the increases were illegal. He had planned to file an appeal of the judge’s ruling this week. But as it turns out, he can’t do that. Aguirre must wait until all three phases of the trial are over. He said today, he will still argue against the remaining benefits in Barton’s courtroom while asking an appellate court to hold an emergency hearing to consider reversing Barton’s ruling on the other benefit hikes. Aguirre said he was even optimistic that he alone might be able to convince Judge Barton that his ruling was a mistake.

Aguirre: Until a judgment is entered in this case, which is months away, the judge can always change his mind and reverse his statement of decision. His statement of decision is not in concrete until there is a final judgment. I told the judge today it’s going to be our intention to try to do everything we can to try to win him over.

Meanwhile, Judge Jeffrey Barton reminded Aguirre and attorneys representing labor groups that they can still try to settle the case outside the courtroom. Aguirre said he was open to the idea. 

Aguirre: We are prepared to meet. We’ve asked the judge to consider that. He’s going to take that under consideration.

But labor lawyers like David Strauss say there’s no viable party to negotiate a settlement with.

Strauss: The city is dysfunctional. The City Council, the mayor and the City Attorney all have different agendas. They have throughout this case. There is some question as to whether this case should even continue, whether it should have been filed initially, there are some City Council members who think not but will do nothing to stop that. We have a city attorney who believes he’s answerable to no one but himself, when you have people like that, you can’t have a reasonable settlement.

What’s more, Strauss said city hall workers have no incentive to settle the case.

Strauss: Our clients are in the right. They’ve been vindicated so far. They will be vindicated the further we go in the case. And they’re not giving back they’re earned benefits.

The next hearing in the case is Dec. 29th. That’s when Aguirre will formally file his objections to Judge Barton’s ruling last week.

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