After state legislatures, the next battle line for public pension reform is the courtroom. Can benefits promised by one group of lawmakers be undone by another? Rhode Island is hoping the answer is yes: Organized labor has taken it to court over pension reforms, alleging that changes to existing contracts breached the fair trade and commerce clause of the states constitution. In late 2012, Rhode Island Treasurer Gina Raimondo (No. 11) asked top litigator David Boies to defend the state. Chairman of Armonk, New Yorkbased law firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner, Boies is best known for representing former vice president Al Gore in Bush v. Gore and successfully defending gay marriage before the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year. He readily took the Rhode Island case, which is under a gag order and in mandated settlement negotiations, at a discount from his usual fee. This is an enormous problem for the country, says Boies, 72, who grew up in Illinois and California and has a JD from Yale Law School. How are we going to pay accumulated obligations that are not sustainable in the current environment? he asks. If you dont have responsible reform, you are going to get irresponsible reform at the expense of retirees and pension beneficiaries, Boies maintains.
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