Fulford to state lawyers in pension case: “I disagree with you.”by John Kennedy | October 26th, 2011
Lawyers for the state were grilled Wednesday by Leon Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford over the Legislature’s move to rewrite the Florida Retirement System and pull 3 percent payroll contributions from some 700,000 government workers.
Lawmakers were able to use the more than $1 billion from teachers, state workers and other public employees as savings last spring, helping cover what then was an almost $3.8 billion budget shortfall. The Florida Education Association and other public employee unions argued before Fulford that the change is an unconstitutional violation of collective bargaining guarantees.
But attorneys Doug Hinson and David Godofsky, from the blue-chip law firm, Alston & Bird, representing the state, argued that past case law gives lawmakers authority to make such revisions — which they labeled a “modification.”
In an unusual move, Fulford left the bench to get a better look at slides Hinson was projecting on a courtroom viewing screen. En route to the floor, Fulford delivered a stunning message:
“I disagree with you,” she said.
Fulford, who last month ruled lawmakers violated the constitution by approving a massive prison privatization plan for South Florida in the budget — rather than a separate bill — said she doesn’t know how she’ll decide the pension case. But she acknowledged having a “fundamental difference,” with the state’s interpretation of its authority.
Arguments continue this afternoon.