Piccioli v. Board of Trustees of the Teachers’ Retirement SystemAnnotate this Case
The 2007 Act, 40 ILCS 5/16-106(10), amended the Pension Code, which governs the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS): An officer or employee of a statewide teachers’ union was permitted to establish TRS service credit if the individual: was certified as a teacher no later than February 27, 2007, applied to the TRS within six months, and paid into the system both the employee contribution and employer (state) contribution, plus interest, for his prior union service. Plaintiff worked as a union lobbyist from 1997 until his 2012 retirement. In 2006, plaintiff obtained a substitute teaching certificate. In January 2007, he worked one day as a substitute teacher. Within six months, plaintiff became a member of the TRS. Plaintiff then contributed $192,668 to the system for his union service. In 2011, the Chicago Tribune published an article, identifying plaintiff and criticizing the law that allowed him to qualify for a teacher’s pension. In response to the negative media coverage, the 2012 Act repealed the 2007 amendment and provided for a refund of contributions. TRS eliminated plaintiff’s service credits and refunded his contributions. Plaintiff sought a declaratory judgment that the retroactive repeal violated the state constitution’s pension protection clause (Ill. Const. 1970, art. XIII).
The Illinois Supreme Court ruled in favor of plaintiff. The 2007 amendment's inclusion of a cutoff date did not render it unconstitutional special legislation (Ill. Const. 1970, art. IV); the amendment applied generally to all eligible employees who met its criteria. Under the pension clause, “once a person commences to work and becomes a member of a public retirement system, any subsequent changes to the Pension Code that would diminish the benefits conferred by membership in the retirement system cannot be applied to that person.”