Metcalfe v. AlaskaAnnotate this Case
Peter Metcalfe was employed briefly by the State in the early 1970s and contributed to the Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS). In 1981, Metcalfe took a refund of his PERS contributions. Under a statute in effect at the time, if Metcalfe later secured State employment and returned his refund to PERS with interest, he was entitled to reinstate at his prior PERS service tier and credit. But in 2005 the legislature repealed that statute, leaving a five-year grace period for regaining State employment and reinstating to a prior PERS status. The State then sent notice to former PERS members that “[d]efined benefit members who do not return to covered employment before July 1, 2010 will forfeit their defined benefit tier and all service associated with the refund.” In 2012 Metcalfe inquired about his PERS status. He was informed that even if he were to regain State employment, he could not reinstate to his prior PERS service tier and credit because under the new statute, his grace period for reinstatement ended in 2010. In June 2013 Metcalfe brought a putative class action lawsuit against the State, alleging that the 2005 legislation: (1) violated article XII, section 7 of the Alaska Constitution; (2) deprived a class of former employees of their vested interest in the contractual “benefit to be reinstated to state employment at the tier level they previously held”; and (3) effectively breached the class members’ employment contracts. Metcalfe sought damages, but he also asked for a seemingly mutually exclusive declaratory judgment that the State must comply with former AS 39.35.350. The class was never certified. The State moved to dismiss Metcalfe’s lawsuit for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The superior court tentatively rejected the argument that Metcalfe failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, rejected the argument that Metcalfe’s claim was not ripe and that he lacked standing, but dismissed Metcalfe’s claim as time barred. Metcalfe appealed, and the State cross-appealed the superior court’s ruling that Metcalfe’s claim was ripe and argued that the superior court’s decision could be upheld on the ground that Metcalfe lacked standing to sue. The Supreme Court affirmed dismissal of the contract damages claim on the alternative ground that no such claim existed; the Court reversed and remanded the declaratory and injunctive relief claim for further proceedings.