Attorney for SRHS retirees plans to take pension case to U.S. Supreme Court

Attorney for SRHS retirees plans to take pension case to U.S. Supreme Court

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Attorney Harvey Barton wants the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case of Singing River Hospital's failed pension plan. Barton said Tuesday he plans to file an appeal within the next 30 days. Barton represents 250 SRHS retirees who object to the $55 million settlement negotiated with SRHS and approved by a federal judge in 2016.

"We want our people paid what they were promised," Barton said.

Barton said there's no guarantee the U.S. Supreme Court will consider the case, but it's the only recourse after last week's decision by The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals against a rehearing. Barton wanted all 17 judges of the Fifth Circuit to review the settlement, specifically the portion that allows Jackson County, which owns Singing River Health System, to pay $12 million to settle any liability in the pension failure. Barton said that's not fair.

"We believe the entity that has the ability to raise taxes, the county, should be responsible for the debt of the pension plan," Barton said. "The hospital can't raise taxes, and they've already said they're broke."

Though current retirees are being paid their full retirements right now, Barton contends the assets of the fund aren't enough to sustain it.

"The assets are $130 million, but to make the plan 100 percent funded today would cost $350 million, and that figure will only continue to grow as more come into the system," Barton said.

Barton predicts the fund will go broke in about eight years, leaving retirees empty-handed.

In July, Barton and attorney Earl Denham won a victory from the Fifth Circuit when it sent the SRHS pension settlement back to U.S. District Court for review to ensure it was fair, adequate, and reasonable and for additional information on how the settlement would impact retirees in the future.

However, once Barton appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court, he said the lower court will not be able to review the case.

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