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Administrative Appeal Supreme Court Opinion

by Booth, George

 

SC19754 - Bouchard v. State Employees Retirement Commission ("In Longley v. State Employees Retirement Commission, 284 Conn. 149, 177–78, 931 A.2d 890 (2007), this court held that the defendant, the State Employees Retirement Commission, had improperly interpreted statutes governing retirement benefits by failing to directly add a retiree's final, prorated longevity payment to the salary earned in the retiree's final year of state employment for the purposes of calculating the retiree's base salary. Although the commission contended in Longley that it had calculated retirement benefits in accordance with its interpretation since the 1960s; id., 166; this court afforded relief to the two plaintiffs in that case without expressing a view on whether the decision applied retroactively. Id., 178. The commission subsequently ordered the recalculation and award of increased retirement benefits, in accordance with Longley, of any person who had retired, or whose benefits were not finalized, on or after October 2, 2001, the six year period preceding the date of the Longley decision. The present case raises the question of whether all state employees, irrespective of when they retired, are entitled to have their benefits recalculated in accordance with Longley.

This question comes to us by way of an unusual procedural posture—a two count complaint bringing (1) an administrative appeal from the commission's decision denying a petition for a declaratory ruling filed by the plaintiffs, retirees Roger J. Bouchard, James J. Malone and James E. Fox, and (2) a declaratory judgment action on behalf of a class, represented by the plaintiffs, of all state employees who retired and began collecting pensions before October 2, 2001. The trial court granted relief to the plaintiffs in the administrative appeal, but denied relief to the class on the ground that the declaratory judgment count was time barred. The plaintiffs appealed from the trial court's judgment insofar as it denied relief for the class. The commission cross appealed from the judgment insofar as it granted relief to the plaintiffs, and raised numerous alternative procedural and substantive grounds for affirming the judgment denying relief to the class. We conclude that the plaintiffs' claims for recalculation of benefits were time barred, and for the reasons supporting that conclusion neither they nor the class is entitled to relief. Accordingly, we affirm in part and reverse in part the trial court's judgment")