By: Mark Glennon*
The United States Supreme Court issued its written opinion in Bush v. Gore just one day after it heard oral arguments on the case, which decided the outcome of the 2000 presidential election. The case had gone through three previous courts in less than five weeks, which included detailed factual issues about “hanging chads” and all the rest.
The Illinois Supreme Court held oral arguments this March 11 on the pension reform law. The lower court ruling on which the appeal was based was rendered on November 21, 2014. The law at issue was passed in December 2013.
This delay is inexcusable. Bush v. Gore is just one example of how appellate courts can, and should, move extremely fast on critical and urgent matters, no matter how complex. The pension case, however, is as straightforward as it is grave, since it’s limited just one issue of law.
Specifically, only one real question is before the Illinois Supreme Court — whether, hypothetically, the “police power” argument that the state is too broke can validly be raised as reason for breaching the pension protection clause of the state constitution. There is no trial record to review. Facts have not even been argued because no trial has yet been held.
The oral arguments, unquestionably, were a waste of time. The Democratic majority on the court did not ask a single question. Their minds evidently were already made up — as they should be, because they have had all the necessary research and analysis in front of them. The questions that were asked all rehashed issues that had been thoroughly briefed in writing.
The Illinois Supreme Court has been thinking about the question at issue for almost a year, or at least should have been. It ruled last July that healthcare benefits are constitutionally protected just like pension benefits, and it indicated that no exceptions may be made.
No issue has ever come before the Illinois Supreme Court as consequential as this one for both the state and its local units of government. There’s nothing on the court’s docket remotely close in importance. The court’s delay is shameful.
*Mark Glennon is founder of WirePoints. Opinions expressed are his own.