Last year, all eyes were on the California Supreme Court in anticipation that the Court would address the so-called “California Rule” which some argue prevents the government from modifying public employee pensions. In its 2019 Cal Fire decision, the Court declined to address the Rule and decided the case on more narrow grounds, finding no “vested right” to the purchase of “air-time” by CalPERS members. Some observers, however, saw the Court’s analysis as a first step in limiting the California Rule, which has not been followed in most other states.
Next up before the Court, with oral argument set for this Tuesday, May 5, is another case in which some parties are asking the Court to take a fresh look at the law on vested rights as applied to pensions – Alameda County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, et al. v. Alameda County Employees’ Retirement Association, et al. Will the Court once again decide the case on narrow grounds – finding no vested right to a host of “spiking” practices outlawed by PEPRA – or will the Court reach the broader question of when pensions can be modified? Stay tuned.