Jackson County

Attorney wants to take failed SRHS pension case to U.S. Supreme Court

Harvey Barton talks with client Cynthia Almond prior to ruling by Judge Neil Harris in 2014. Barton announced on Sept. 12, 2017, that he would take the SRHS retirees failed pension case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Harvey Barton talks with client Cynthia Almond prior to ruling by Judge Neil Harris in 2014. Barton announced on Sept. 12, 2017, that he would take the SRHS retirees failed pension case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Sun Herald file

Attorney Harvey Barton, who represents about 250 former employees of Singing River Health System, announced Tuesday afternoon they will take the failed pension case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

He said they failed to get the satisfaction they wanted from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, which let Jackson County out of the settlement for what he called “a paltry $12 million,” when the overall pension debt is around $322 million.

SRHS is a county-owned hospital system. When its pension began failing for lack of contributions three years ago and lawsuits ensued, Jackson County became part of the settlement.

Harvey said letting Jackson County, the only taxing authority, walk away from liability in the case was not acceptable.

He and his clients want the taxpayers to back the settlement.

He said he and a team have 60 days to file with the U.S. Supreme Court.

“They may not take the case,” he said, “but we’re going to try.”

He said the cost of filing with the Supreme Court is not the issue. It will cost him less than $1,000.

“It’s the time it takes to prepare the case,” he said. “But if time and money were the issue, we wouldn’t be here.

“It’s a case of Constitutional importance, a case of first impression, which means it’s a case where the courts established precedent, no other court has decided on it.”

He said it also is a case that is important to a great number of people because it affects several thousand people under the pension plan.

Harvey Barton, attorney for Singing River Health System retirees, argues during a hearing with Chancery Court Judge Breland Hilburn on Wednesday, December 2, 2015, that the settlement won't fund the pension enough.

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