Judge to decide how much lawyers get in Illinois retiree health insurance premium refunds

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SPRINGFIELD, Illinois — A judge will soon decide how much in fees lawyers should get out of refunds stemming from lawsuits that struck down an Illinois law making retirees pay premiums for state-subsidized health insurance.

The State Journal-Register (http://bit.ly/1NDStgk ) reports lawyers are seeking more than $3 million. Sangamon County Associate Judge Steven Nardulli has until April 15 to make a ruling, but he said in a Wednesday hearing that he won't take that long.

Nardulli said some retirees felt the state should pay the legal fees as the losing party, but he said that isn't an option. Between 700 and 800 retirees have filed objections to the settlement, Nardulli said.

Retired Illinois State University professor Larry Eggan said at the hearing that the legal fees should come from the state legislature.

"The attorneys should be paid, but only for work done," he said. "It seems to me to be windfall profits for little time or effort."

The state Supreme Court ruled last summer that the law was unconstitutional because it altered promised benefits. Before the law was passed, retirees with 20 or more years of services didn't have to pay health insurance premiums.

The Illinois Department of Central Management Services said in December that $63 million in premiums was collected from roughly 90,000 retirees. Lawyers had previously asked to be paid 15 percent of that amount, but Nardulli turned down the request, saying they should document hours of work on the case.

The lawsuits against the Illinois law were consolidated at one point, but multiple legal teams continued to work on the case. Springfield attorneys Don Craven and John Myers said they worked on the case for hundreds of hours, and that they weren't paid at the time.

Attorney Stephen Yokich, who filed one of the lawsuits on behalf of some public-sector retirees, said he had doubts about the amount of legal fees requested. He called it a "very easy case to litigate."

"I don't think the evidence justifies what has been requested," Yokich said.


Information from: The State Journal-Register, http://www.sj-r.com

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