Judge Sarah Taft-Carter of Rhode Island's Superior Court is hearing the pension cases. The lawyer David Boies is pushing for cuts
Can a judge rule impartially on pension cuts when her mother, her son, her uncle and even she herself all have a stake in preserving the status quo?
Rhode Island, the site of a sweeping pension overhaul last year, has brought in a prominent New York lawyer to litigate the question: David Boies, perhaps best known for representing Al Gore in the fight over the 2000 presidential election and for waging an antitrust battle against Microsoft on behalf of the government in the 1990s.
Rhode Islandís dispute may not reach quite those dramatic heights, but it is being closely watched as a first major test of whether, and how, financially strained states and cities can cut the benefits of their workers and retirees.
Several public employee unions have sued Gov. Lincoln Chafee and other Rhode Island officials, accusing them of acting illegally when they pushed through a package of money-saving pension cuts last year, including suspending annual cost-of-living increases for most retirees. The unions want the richer benefits restored.