CRANSTON FIREFIGHTERS, IAFF LOCAL 1363, AFL-CIO, on its own behalf and on behalf of its members; INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF POLICE OFFICERS, LOCAL 301, AFL-CIO, on its own behalf and on behalf of its members, Plaintiffs, Appellants,
GINA M. RAIMONDO, in her capacity as Governor of the State of Rhode Island; SETH MAGAZINER, in his capacity as General Treasurer of the State of Rhode Island; THE EMPLOYEES' RETIREMENT SYSTEM OF RHODE ISLAND, by and through Seth Magaziner, in his capacity as Chairperson of the Retirement Board, and Frank J. Karpinski, in his capacity as Executive Director of the Retirement Board; CITY OF CRANSTON, by and through its Finance Director, Robert F. Strom, and its Treasurer, David Capuano, Defendants, Appellees.
FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
RHODE ISLAND [Hon. Mary M. Lisi, U.S. District Judge]
Elizabeth Wiens, with whom Gursky|Wiens Attorneys at Law,
Ltd. was on brief, for appellants.
J. Benjamin, with whom John A. Tarantino, Adler Pollock &
Sheehan P.C., Rebecca Partington, Rhode Island Department of
Attorney General, and Michael Field, Rhode Island Department
of Attorney General were on brief, for appellees Gina M.
Raimondo, in her capacity as Governor of the State of Rhode
Island, Seth Magaziner, in his capacity as the General
Treasurer of the State of Rhode Island, and the
Employees' Retirement System of Rhode Island.
Nicholas L. Nybo, with whom William M. Dolan III and Adler
Pollock & Sheehan P.C. were on brief, for appellee City
Torruella, Thompson, and Kayatta, Circuit Judges.
KAYATTA, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
2011, Rhode Island enacted legislation modifying various
state-run pension plans for government employees, including a
plan that covered municipal firefighters and police officers.
Generally speaking, the modifications reduced the value of
the benefits payable under the plan in order to ameliorate
what the State perceived to be a serious and growing
liability that would be difficult to fund. The unions
representing the firefighters and police officers employed by
the City of Cranston (the "Unions") filed this
lawsuit claiming that the modifications unconstitutionally
repudiated contractual obligations owed to the Cranston
affirm the district court's dismissal of the complaint.
In so doing, we find that the complaint fails as a matter of
law to allege that the challenged legislation
unconstitutionally impaired any contractual rights of the
Unions' members. We also find that federal court is not
the proper forum within which to litigate the Unions'
undeveloped claims that the City of Cranston is failing to
live up to the terms of its ordinances or collective
bargaining agreements, and we find that this lawsuit provides
no opportunity to challenge the terms of a settlement by
other parties in another lawsuit. Our reasoning follows.
1936, Rhode Island has maintained a retirement system for
state employees, administered by a retirement board. See
Nat'l Educ. Ass'n-R.I. ex rel. Scigulinksy v. Ret.
Bd. of the R.I. Emps. Ret. Sys. (NEA), 172 F.3d
22, 24 (1st Cir. 1999). In 1951, the State created a
retirement system for municipal employees, including
firefighters and police officers. See 1951 R.I. Pub.
Laws Ch. 2784 (codified as amended at 45 R.I. Gen. Laws
§ 45-21-1, et seq. (2017)). Seventeen years later, the
State created an alternative, dedicated plan for police
officers and firefighters (the "Optional Police and Fire
Retirement System"). See 1968 R.I. Pub. Laws
Ch. 230 (codified as amended at 45 R.I. Gen. Laws §
45-21.2-1, et seq. (2017)).
least one municipality, the City of Cranston, also operated
its own municipal retirement system. By the mid-1990s,
Cranston was experiencing a severe operating deficit and its
municipal pension plan was critically underfunded. The Unions
and the City came up with a potential solution: all new
hires, and perhaps some recent hires, would transfer to the
state retirement system. One significant impediment to this
rescue plan stood in the way: the state system provided less
favorable benefits. Cranston and the Unions overcame this
impediment by convincing representatives from the state
retirement board to submit special legislation that would
provide certain Cranston police officers and firefighters who
joined the state system with benefits in excess of those
provided to others under that system. The Rhode Island
General Assembly passed the special legislation, which became
law on August 9, 1996. 1996 R.I. Pub. Laws Ch. 374
("1996 Special Legislation").
1996 Special Legislation amended state law to allow new
members and certain existing members of the Cranston Fire and
Police Departments to opt into the state's Optional
Police and Fire Retirement System, to provide higher
"final compensation" for purposes of calculating
their pension benefits, to provide a higher annual cost of
living adjustment ("COLA") payment (three percent
compounded), and to increase employee contributions from
seven percent to ten percent. The statute also provided that
Cranston Fire and Police Department enrollees who transferred
from the municipal pension plan into the state system would,
upon joining, "waive and renounce all accrued rights and
benefits of any other [municipal] pension or retirement
system." Finally, the statute invited the City to
approve the changes: "This act shall take effect upon
passage and be applicable to the City of Cranston upon the