The Incredibly Intricate Colorado PERA SB10-001 Political Web.

I find a few interactions in this web of relationships surrounding SB10-001 particularly noteworthy:

Colorado Supreme Court Justice Hood contributed to Democrat Bill Ritter's campaign for Governor, and "hosted campaign events" for Ritter.

Governor Ritter initially appointed Justice Hood to the bench.

Governor Ritter signed SB10-001 into law.

Democratic Governor Hickenlooper appointed Hood to the Colorado Supreme Court.

Justice Hood upheld SB10-001 as a member of the Colorado Supreme Court.

Justice Hood has worked with attorney Mark Grueskin at Isaacson Rosenbaum, P.C.

Attorney Grueskin represented the SB10-001 PERA defendants.

Justice Hood was a shareholder at Isaacson Rosenbaum in 2006.

Isaacson Rosenbaum worked for Colorado PERA during this time period.

Attorney Grueskin has provided legal representation for the Colorado Democratic Party.

Justice Hood has been recused or removed in a separate case due to his past association with Attorney Grueskin.

In 2010, the Colorado Legislature enacted a bill, SB10-001, designed to reduce unfunded pension liabilities of the Colorado PERA pension system by cutting the statutory COLA inflation protection of pensioners (called the "annual benefit increase" [ABI] in Colorado law.) These public pension liabilities had accumulated over time, since "actuarially required contributions" to the pension system have been underpaid since 2002. Ninety percent of the "cost savings" in the bill, SB10-001, are the result of cutting the pensioner's statutory ABI (COLA.)

Naturally, Colorado PERA pensioners challenged the bill in court as a violation of their contractual rights. Lawyers for the defendants in the case (the State of Colorado and the pension system, Colorado PERA) began by arguing that the contract breach and reduction of the PERA ABI (COLA) were "actuarially necessary," but soon abandoned this legal strategy. Later in the litigation the defendants switched their legal strategy, and simply argued that the contract right to the PERA COLA did not exist. (Inconveniently, Colorado PERA's lawyers had already testified to the Legislature that it did exist. December 16, 2009, Colorado PERA officials in written testimony to the Joint Budget Committee: “The General Assembly cannot decrease the COLA (absent actuarial necessity) because it is part of the contractual obligations that accrue under a pension plan protected under the Colorado Constitution Article II, Section 11 and the United States Constitution Article 1, Section 10 for vested contractual rights.”

But, the Denver District Court's Judge Robert Hyatt ruled against the plaintiffs (PERA pensioners,) deciding the case (Justus v. State) without citing Colorado's on-point public pension case law (Bills/McPhail.) The Colorado Court of Appeals reversed the Denver District Court finding Colorado case law "dispositive" as to the contractual rights of the PERA pensioners to the COLA benefit. Ultimately, the Colorado Supreme Court reversed the Decision of the Colorado Court of Appeals, embracing the Denver District Court decision that failed to even mention the on-point case law, (Bills/McPhail.)

Thus, Colorado state government acted to eliminate billions of dollars of Colorado state government debt. Colorado taxpayers are pleased, and Colorado politicians have more money to spend on their favorite projects.

The myriad political connections, the legal, lobbying and public relations campaigns that ultimately resulted in the enactment and judicial blessing of the Colorado PERA COLA reduction bill, SB10-001, provide an excellent example of political action at the Colorado Legislature, and the power of Colorado political parties. I am astounded at the intricacy of these political connections. Perhaps you will be too.

The connections include the interaction or collaboration of former Governor Ritter, Attorney Mark Grueskin, Colorado Supreme Court Justice Hood, former Colorado Supreme Court Justice Dubofsky, Governor Hickenlooper, the Colorado Education Association, the Colorado Coalition for Retirement Security, Colorado unions, and Colorado PERA administrators and trustees.

The PERA COLA reduction bill, SB10-001, was supported by a group called the Colorado Coalition for Retirement Security. The Colorado Coalition for Retirement Security and Attorney Mark Grueskin:

Articles of Incorporation for a Nonprofit Corporation for the Colorado Coalition for Retirement Security filed with the Colorado Secretary of State:

"Address: 3087A Tejon Street."

"Registered Agent: Lynea Hansen."

"The true name and mailing address of the incorporator are:"

"Heizer Paul Grueskin LLP."

The true name of the incorporator of the Colorado Coalition for Retirement Security is the firm of Heizer Paul Grueskin LLP?

What is (or was) the relationship between Secure PERA (also known as the Colorado Coalition for Retirement Security,) the Colorado PERA pension system, and this law firm? Has Colorado PERA paid the law firm for services relating to SB10-001?

The Colorado Coalition for Retirement Security and Governor Hickenlooper:

It seems peculiar that the Colorado Coalition for Retirement Security has had the same street address as Colorado Governor Hickenlooper's political campaign:

Political Consultant Lynea Hansen, the Colorado Coalition for Retirement Security, and Governor Hickenlooper, from

"When liberal communications strategist Lynea Hansen took the over the reins of BlueFlower from Taylor in early 2009, the filing violations continued. What changed was the address on the fund’s place of business. The official mailing address for the BlueFlower Fund changed from 8092 E. 8th Place, which was Taylor’s Denver home, to 3087A Tejon St. in Denver. This address also happened to match that of Gov. John Hickenlooper’s campaign committee, the Colorado ASSET bill advocacy page, the public affairs contact for the Colorado Education Association, the Secure PERA network, and a gaggle of other Democratic campaigns. Many of these groups paid Hansen for consulting or financial reporting services."

“Lynea Hansen, executive director of the Colorado Coalition for Retirement Security."

"Lynea Hansen, Senior Vice President at Strategies 360."

"Lynea Hansen, from the Colorado Coalition for Retirement Security (CCRS).  CCRS, also called Secure PERA, was founded in 2006 to work with PERA and the State Legislature. The coalition has 8 member organizations as follows: AFSCME Colorado (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees), American Federation of Teachers Colorado, Association of Colorado State Patrol Professionals, Colorado Association of School Executives, Colorado Education Association, CSPERA – Colorado School and Public Employees Retirement Association, Colorado WINS (Workers for Innovative and New Solutions,) and Friends of PERA. As you can see, our parent organization, CSPERA, is a member of the coalition. Lynea Hansen runs the Secure PERA website and works very hard to keep PERA strong. She also makes it very easy for all of us as PERA retirees to keep abreast of issues and news regarding PERA, as well as what is happening in the legislature regarding PERA."

Attorney Grueskin and the Colorado Education Association:

“Mark Grueskin, best known in education circles as a lawyer for the Colorado Education Association . . .”

Colorado Education Association and SB10-001, from the Colorado PERA website:

“In Colorado, Senate Bill 1 passed with the support of the Colorado Coalition for Retirement Security, which brought together Friends of PERA (which includes PERA members and retirees), the Colorado Education Association, the Colorado School and Public Employees Retirement Association, AFSCME Colorado, the American Federation of Teachers Colorado, the Association of Colorado State Patrol Professionals, the Colorado Association of School Executives, and Colorado WINS.”

A former AFSCME Colorado official on SB10-001:

"The entire AFSCME endorsement of screwing public employees out of their pension COLA's in Colorado is unfortunately quite true, however, it should be remembered that AFSCME no longer represents Colorado State Employees, and it hasn't for about 7 years now. It was decided 7 years ago in a backroom deal in Washington that the three state employee unions would become Colorado WINS. The rank and file members of AFSCME Locals in Colorado were not given the right to vote on this, nor were the members of CAPE or the CFPE. The people who espouse 'democratic labor trade unionism' in America, wouldn't allow it to take place in Colorado. Ritter and company granted a an exclusive franchise to Colorado WINS (which is a subsidiary of SEIU) and Colorado State employees do not have the right to belong to any other union, as both Change To Win and the AFL-CIO have prevented other unions (such as the CWA, which has had a consistent record of fighting for public employees' pensions) from organizing. Thanks to their betrayal of Colorado State employees, Colorado AFSCME Council 76 is now a bankrupt shell of an organization that represents some county employees in Pueblo, city employees in Aurora, the remnants of Denver City employees Local 535 and 158 and the maintenance staff at DU. They have one 'assistant Executive Director' and two clerical workers for a staff. All they are is a paper tiger, shell organization that is used as a conduit to 'move money' in state elections."

Attorney Mark Grueskin and the Colorado Judicial Project, from WestWord:

"In the meantime, Grueskin is still in the process of getting the Colorado Judicial Project on its feet; when asked if the CJP would have a web presence, he laughingly admits, 'I don't know. We've chatted about a number of ways to help educate the public — but you've got a roomful of lawyers, for crying out loud. So we have dissenting and concurring opinions, but no decision.'"

Former Supreme Court Justice Jean Dubofsky and the Colorado Judicial Project:

“ . . . Matt Arnold appeared on the Your Show television program [moderated by Adam Schrager,] debating former Colorado Supreme Court justice Jean Dubofsky [my note, author of the 2009 Colorado PERA "COLA-taking" legal opinion] representing the 'Colorado Judiciary Project' [a legal-establishment special-interest group formed by Democratic state party attorney and Mark Grueskin.]”

Former Colorado Supreme Court Justice Jean Dubofsky and Colorado PERA:

Jean Dubofsky, at the request of Colorado PERA, provided PERA with a legal opinion arguing that the Colorado Legislature could legally take Colorado PERA retiree pension COLA benefits: “at request of PERA (Public Employees Retirement Association) in 2009, provided legal opinion that general assembly could repeal automatic 3% cost-of-living adjustment for retirees without violating their vested rights;”

Colorado PERA General Counsel Greg Smith, December 17, 2009 – “We have obtained outside counsel’s opinion on this issue.”

In a deposition Jean Dubofsky submitted to Colorado PUC she notes that she is the author of a legal opinion addressing the legality of reducing the PERA COLA benefit, October 18, 2010:

“My most recent legislative experience (within the past two years) is . . . a legal opinion addressing the constitutionality of reducing the cost-of-living increase for PERA recipients.”

(To access this document, paste “Colorado PUC E-filing system PERA legal opinion Jean Dubofsky” into Google.)

Colorado PERA's Greg Smith on Colorado PERA pension benefits:

“His [Colorado PERA General Counsel Greg Smith's] briefing paper said 'there has never been a finding in Colorado that the state has reserved its power to make changes' in PERA's benefit structure.”

"The PERA board, however, relying on a legal opinion by General Counsel Greg Smith, thinks benefits cannot be cut for any active PERA member. That means not just current retirees and workers who are eligible to retire but the brand-new employee who has put less than a year of contributions into the plan."

"Smith argued, however, that there is no precedent for declaring an actuarial emergency unless a pension fund has a serious cash liquidity problem."

Greg Smith, Colorado PERA’s former General Counsel told us in a Denver Post article from November 30, 2008: “The attorney general’s opinion seems clear that fully vested employees — those retired or with enough years of service to retire — cannot see any benefits reduced, including cost-of-living adjustments.”


Colorado Supreme Court Justice Hood and the Colorado Democratic Party:

"Hood's history as a Democrat party contributor – he maxed out to Bill Ritter's 2006 campaign, contributed to the Democrat House Majority Fund, and others – is notable."

"Interesting that the Denver Post failed to uncover and/or report on this salient fact." … t-justice/

"The notion of partisan 'pay to play' for judicial appointments is disturbing, irrespective of party. The fact that Hood maxed out to Ritter's campaign before being appointed by Ritter to the bench certainly calls his objectivity into question, wouldn't one think?"

"Prior to being appointed to the Denver District Court in 2007, Hood was a long-time contributor to Democrat candidates and causes: hosting events for Bill Ritter’s campaign and contributing the maximum amount ($1,000) in 2006, contributing to the State Democratic Party House Campaign Fund, and supporting Steve Bernard’s failed campaign for District Attorney in 2004."

"Hood also has close ties to Democrat Party attorney (and frequent Colorado Supreme Court litigator) Mark Grueskin, dating from their time as colleagues in the politically connected (and politically active) Isaacson Rosenbaum P.C. law firm – associations that may have been related to his removal from the 2011 Congressional redistricting lawsuits, before the case was reassigned to Denver District Court Chief Judge Robert Hyatt . . ."

Isaacson Rosenbaum's work for Colorado PERA:

"Both the state and PERA filed motions in May asking the court to dismiss six of the eight claims contained in the plaintiffs’ case. The state is represented by the Attorney General’s office; PERA’s lead attorneys are Mark Grueskin and Edward Ramey of Isaacson Rosenbaum, PC."

Mark Grueskin and Colorado PERA:

"Among those representing PERA are two well-known Denver governmental affairs lawyers, Mark Grueskin and Edward Ramey of the Isaacson Rosenbaum firm."

Colorado Supreme Court Justice William Hood and Isaacson Rosenbaum:

"Before moving to the bench, Judge Hood was a shareholder at Isaacson Rosenbaum P.C., where he did both civil and criminal trial work."

"Venerable 50-year-old Denver law firm Isaacson Rosenbaum will wind up operations and close at the end of June, people familiar with the situation today told Law Week Colorado."

"The firm, which lists 23 shareholders and five associates on its website, was a victim of the 2008 economic downturn, a heavy emphasis in real estate law and an expensive office lease at the recently renovated 1005 17th St."  "It wasn’t immediately known where all of its top attorneys would land."  "Ramey and Lawrence joined Heizer Paul Grueskin, and Corrada is moving to Lapin & Lapin."

"Hood, 50, has been a Denver District Court judge since 2007. Prior to becoming a judge, Hood practiced at the private firm Isaacson Rosenbaum."

"Prior to becoming a judge, Hood was in private practice at Isaacson Rosenbaum P.C., where he was a shareholder from 2005-2007 and of counsel in the litigation department from 2003-2005."

Law Week online:

"Redistricting Judge, Dem Lawyer Worked At Same Firm."

"Asked about a possible conflict between himself and the judge, Grueskin said, 'Even before you get to the issue that he and I were formerly colleagues, he may have a docket that’s full.'"

"Grueskin explained that the redistricting case must be decided well before the Feb. 7 caucuses, and 'typically there will be some reallocation if necessary because not every judge’s docket would accommodate that.'”

From clearthebenchcolorado:

"However, the case may not remain with Judge Hood, due to his past association (working together at the same law firm) with Democratic attorney Mark Grueskin, as also reported by Law Week online: Denver District Judge William Hood, who was randomly assigned to hear Colorado congressional redistricting lawsuits filed Tuesday by Republicans and Democrats, once was a law-firm colleague of the lead attorney for the Democratic side."

"Before his appointment to the Denver bench in 2007, Hood worked at Isaacson Rosenbaum, the firm that until recently employed Democratic Party lawyer Mark Grueskin."

Apparently, in 2006, Isaacson Rosenbaum was representing Colorado PERA (while Justice Hood was a shareholder):

"Colorado PERA files motion challenging (2006) ballot initiative."

"The motion was filed on behalf of attorneys Mark G. Greuskin and Edward T. Ramey of the Denver Law Firm Isaacson Rosenbaum, P.C."

Initiative #93: PERA Reform:

The "Purposes" of 2006 State Initiative #93. A few of the purposes of the proposed initiative that were addressed at a hearing on the measure:

"In the event of an actuarial necessity, to authorize the general assembly to modify the member and employer contributions and the benefits allowed to members of the defined benefit plan, so long as the benefits of members who are eligible for a service retirement benefit or a reduced service retirement are not modified."

"To specify that PERA shall be subject to administrative direction by the governor's office of budget and management."

"To specify that the general assembly shall appropriate funding for the administrative oversight of PERA."

"To prohibit the attorney general from delegating his or her responsibilities as legal advisor to the PERA board to any legal advisor or in-house counsel hired by the association."

"Memorandum Question 9. "The proposed initiative appears to specify that the benefits allowed to members who are eligible for a service retirement benefit or a reduced service retirement benefit under the defined benefit plan cannot be modified during an actuarial necessity. Can the proponents please explain the purpose of this change from the original proposed initiative #81?"

(My comment: This is interesting, that Justice Hood's law firm, Isaacson Rosenbaum, was grappling with the issue of the taking of vested Colorado PERA benefits through a claim of "actuarial necessity," while Justice Hood was a shareholder at the firm.

As legal representatives of Colorado PERA in 2006, shareholder Hood's firm and colleague Mark Grueskin assisted Colorado PERA in addressing this state-wide ballot initiative providing that "actuarial necessity" could not be used to take "fully-vested" PERA pension benefits. This is particularly ironic since the use of the "actuarial necessity" strategy was the original legal strategy in PERA's attempt to take the PERA COLA benefit, was noted regularly by SB10-001 bill co-prime sponsor Josh Penry as the legal underpinnings for the proposed taking of the COLA, and was likely employed in the legal memorandum supporting a PERA COLA taking that PERA officials solicited from former Colorado Supreme Court Justice Dubofsky.

While he was a shareholder at Isaacson Rosenbaum did Justice Hood discuss the concept of actuarial necessity with colleague Mark Grueskin? While Justice Hood received the compensation of a shareholder at Isaacson Rosenbaum, the firm was paid by the Colorado PERA pension system to provide legal services to Colorado PERA relating to the legal concept of "actuarial necessity."

It appears that this Supreme Court Justice (Hood) recused himself (or was removed) in 2011 in the Colorado redistricting case, Moreno, due to his association with the politically-connected attorney (Grueskin.) The extent of the relationship of Justice William Hood with the Colorado PERA lawyer (until recently) Grueskin should be explored.

Colorado PERA retirees should make a point of discovering the rationale for Justice Hood's recusal (or removal) from the case, Moreno, in 2011. Was Justice Hood indeed recused in the Moreno case due to his association with the defendant's (Colorado PERA) lawyer (Grueskin) in the current case, Justus v. State. What documents exist relating to Justice Hood's removal or recusal in the Moreno case?)

Attorney Grueskin and Colorado Supreme Court Justice Hood, from the CTBC:

"Given Hood’s close associations with Democratic party attorney and frequent Colorado Supreme Court litigant Mark Grueskin, this pick could lead to a number of recusals in some high-profile, politically-charged cases that might come before the Colorado Supreme Court."

Was attorney Grueskin involved in the selection of Dubofsky to create a legal rationale for the contemplated PERA COLA taking? Has Justice Hood had any association with the Colorado PERA defense team's Grueskin while Colorado PERA was contemplating a taking of the PERA COLA benefit in 2008, 2009, or 2010?  If so, what was communicated between the two?

Governor Hickenlooper and Colorado Supreme Court Justice Hood, Denver Post:

"Gov. John Hickenlooper on Friday announced his appointment of Denver District Court Judge William Hood III as the 103rd Colorado Supreme Court justice."

"Hood will fill the vacancy created next year when Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Bender retires.  Bender, who will step down Jan. 7, has served on the Supreme Court since 1997 and as chief since 2010."

"'He (Hood) has consistently demonstrated an ability to fairly apply the law while administering justice,' Hickenlooper said. 'His breadth of experience on both sides of the courtroom is invaluable to informed decisions.'"

"Hood, 50, has been a Denver District Court judge since 2007. Prior to becoming a judge, Hood practiced at the private firm Isaacson Rosenbaum. He also served as a prosecutor for the 18th Judicial District Attorney's office."


"Hickenlooper was under some natural pressure to appoint a Democrat to replace the liberal Bender with a similar-minded justice — particularly after his last appointment to fill a vacant seat; in 2011, Hickenlooper chose Jefferson County Republican Brian Boatright to replace the retiring Alex Martinez, a decision that did not sit well with Democrats. Martinez had been a liberal voice on the Colorado Supreme Court, and replacing him with the conservative Boatright may have ultimately been the difference in the Lobato education lawsuit. Selecting Hood, a registered Democrat, keeps the court's political affiliations about the same: 3 liberals (Hood, Nancy Rice, Gregory Hobbs), 3 conservatives (Allison Eid, Nathan Coates,and Boatright), and 1 "Unaffiliated" (Monica Marquez).

Justice Hood and the University of Denver Law School,

"The 50-year-old Hood has been a Denver District Court judge since 2007.  He’s also an adjunct professor at the University of Denver."

At these lofty heights of the Colorado legal community many of the most prominent figures are acquainted. Justice Hood has been an adjunct professor at DU. The wife of (now retired) Judge Robert Hyatt, who issued the original decision in the case, Justus v. State, happens to teach at DU:

"Sheila Hyatt teaches in the areas of Civil Procedure, Evidence and Trial Practice."

Attorney Grueskin and Sam Mamet of the Colorado Municipal League:

"Par Sponsors: Litvak Litvak Mehrtens and Epstein, P.C. (by Steve Epstein), Mark Grueskin & Lola Farber Grueskin & Family, Sam Mamet & Judith Cassel-Mamet & Family . . ."

(Sam Mamet is Executive Director of the Colorado Municipal League [CML.] Some of CML’s municipal members have benefited from the Colorado General Assembly’s use of approximately $700 million in state revenue to pay off legacy local government pension debts [Old Hire Fire and Police pension obligations] that are not contractual obligations of the State of Colorado. Billions of dollars of Colorado PERA pension debt, contractual obligations owed by Colorado municipalities [many of them members of CML] were erased by the bill SB10-001.)

Governor Hickenlooper and SB10-001:

Hickenlooper casually dismisses the contractual property rights of elderly Colorado pensioners:

". . . Sobanet is careful in discussing the studies, noting that his boss, Gov. John Hickenlooper. . . supports defending Senate Bill 1.'”

Yet, Hickenlooper aggressively defends the contractual property rights of oil and gas companies:

“Whether it’s local government or state government, I don’t think government should come in and snatch somebody’s property.” . . .

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