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Denning v. Kansas Public Employees Retirement System

March 28, 2008

FRANCIS P. DENNING, APPELLANT,
v.
KANSAS PUBLIC EMPLOYEES RETIREMENT SYSTEM, APPELLEE.



Appeal from Shawnee district court; DAVID E. BRUNS, judge.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

1. An administrative agency's interpretation of a statute is not conclusive; final construction of a statute always rests with the courts. A question of statutory interpretation is subject to unlimited review on appeal.

2. When a statute is plain and unambiguous, the court must give effect to its express language, rather than determine what the law should or should not be. A court will not speculate on legislative intent and will not read the statute to add something not readily found in it. If the statute's language is clear, there is no need to resort to statutory construction.

3. A Kansas Police and Firemen's System retirant who returns to work for any employer that paid his or her wages at any point in the 2 years preceding retirement is subject to the earnings cap set forth in K.S.A. 2007 Supp. 74-4957(5).

4. The constitutionality of a statute is presumed. All doubts must be resolved in favor of its validity, and before the act may be stricken down it must clearly appear that the statute violates the constitution. In determining constitutionality, it is the court's duty to uphold a statute under attack rather than defeat it. If there is any reasonable way to construe the statute as constitutionally valid, that should be done. A statute should not be stricken down unless the infringement of the superior law is clear beyond substantial doubt.

5. The issue of whether a statute is constitutional is one of law, and the scope of appellate review is unlimited.

6. K.S.A. 2007 Supp. 74-4957(5) is not unconstitutionally vague.

7. State retirement systems create contracts between the State and its employees. A unilateral, retroactive, substantial change in retirement benefits by a governmental employer to the disadvantage or detriment of employees violates the Contract Clause of Article 1, § 10 of the United States Constitution.

8. The test for determining whether a state law violates the federal Contract Clause is whether: (1) The state law has, in fact, operated as a substantial impairment of a contractual relationship; (2) whether there is a significant and legitimate public purpose behind the legislation; and (3) whether the adjustment of the contracting parties' rights and responsibilities is based upon reasonable conditions and is of a character appropriate to the public purpose justifying the legislation's adoption. Specifically, to be sustained as reasonable, alterations of employees' pension rights must bear some material relation to the theory of a pension system and its successful operation, and changes in a pension plan that result in disadvantage to employees should be accompanied by comparable new advantages.

9. The legislature's decision to remove a Kansas Police and Firemen's Retirement System retirant's option to revoke retirement and participate in the system on return to work does not violate the federal Contract Clause.

10. The treatment of elected officials under K.S.A. 2007 Supp. 74-4957(5) does not violate equal protection when compared with the treatment of elected officials under K.S.A. 2007 Supp. 74-4914(5).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Beier, J.

Affirmed.

Plaintiff Francis P. Denning brings this appeal to challenge K.S.A. 2007 Supp. 74-4957(5)'s annual earnings cap limiting the amount of retirement he may draw under the Kansas ...


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