Monday, March 30, 2015

Court of Appeal: No Vested Rights in Post-Retirement Pension Benefit Enhancements

On March 27, 2015, the California Court of Appeal held employees who retired before certain pension benefit enhancements went into effect did not have vested rights to those benefits. The court's decision in Protect Our Benefits v. City and County of San Francisco held retirees' post-retirement benefit enhancements were exposed to legislative impairment.

Beginning in 1996, retired employees of the City and County of San Francisco ("City") received supplemental cost of living allowances ("supplemental COLA") for their pension benefits when the retirement fund's earnings from the previous year exceeded projected earnings. But in November 2011, voters passed an initiative conditioning payment of the supplemental COLA on the retirement fund being "fully funded."

The court held the initiative improperly impaired vested contractual rights for current City employees and those who retired after the 1996 supplemental COLA went into effect. However, the court upheld the November 2011 initiative for City employees who retired before the 1996 supplemental COLA went into effect because they had no vested rights in the supplemental COLA. Vested pension rights are created at the time the employee provides services for the employer. The pre-1996 retirees' vested rights were limited to the pension benefits in effect at retirement, and they had no vested rights in the post-retirement supplemental COLA enhancements.

Sacramento Business Journal Interviews David P. Mastagni

The Sacramento Business Journal interviewed leaders from the top Sacramento firms to discuss what litigators see as challenges in the profession. The article noted:

According to Mastagni Holstedt managing partner David Mastagni, the biggest challenge facing litigators is "Staying on game (from) one litigation setting to another without breaks while being able to shift from one set of facts and laws to another amidst being able to change forums and jurisdictions."

The Journal recently listed Mastagni Holstedt as the top litigation firm.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Mastagni Holstedt Ranked #1 Litigation Firm By Sacramento Business Journal

The Sacramento Business Journal ranked Mastagni Holstedt the #1 litigation law firm.  The list ranks the top twenty-five law firms in Sacramento metro by number of litigators.

According to Mastagni Holstedt Founder, David P. Mastagni, "We are very pleased to have the growth and success of our litigation practices recognized in this way.  As the firm grows in Southern California, it is important to us to remain the leader in Sacramento litigating on behalf of employees, public safety labor associations, and individual plaintiffs, as well as class and mass actions."

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Controversial Cell Phone Surveillance System Prompts Lawsuits Against Government Agencies

A controversial cell phone surveillance system, known as the StingRay, has prompted lawsuits against 40 federal and local government agencies. The StingRay allows law enforcement agencies to track criminals by simulating a cell phone tower. It is capable of identifying phone users and capturing communications within its range. Certain groups have raised privacy concerns for bystanders who are not part of a criminal investigation.

Last year, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) requested documents under the California Public Records Act from the Anaheim Police Department and the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department describing their StingRay use. The ACLU says it wants to find out who is using the devices, what policies govern the uses, and what types of crimes it is being used to pursue. When the agencies refused to disclose certain documents, the ACLU brought suit. Similar lawsuits have been filed across the country as certain groups seek more information about the StingRay and its role in government agencies.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Assembly Committee on Public Safety Holds Hearings on Police Body Worn Cameras

On March 3, 2015, the Assembly Committee on Public Safety held a hearing titled “Law Enforcement Use of Body Cameras: Policies and Pitfalls”, on a variety of issues relating to Police Use of Body Worn Cameras and proposed legislation.

Two prominent advocates for the rights of public safety officers testified before the Committee, David Mastagni, Managing Partner of Mastagni Holstedt, APC, and Edward Fishman, the Legal Administrator of the PORAC Legal Defense Fund.

Mastagni’s testimony provided insight into the collateral impacts of the Body Camera footage in a variety of litigation contexts.  Fishman testified regarding the balancing transparency and privacy, and the need for local control over the specifics of each Department’s camera policy.

Both Fishman and Mastagni expressed support on behalf of law enforcement for responsible use of body worn cameras, which must include policies protecting the rights of victims, witnesses, officers and the public.  Both witnesses pointed out the need to protect against mass disclosure of sensitive recordings and protecting the privacy rights of victims and witnesses.

PORAC is supporting important legislation providing a balanced framework for implementation of body worn camera policies and protecting against unwarranted disclosures.