The issues behind public employee unions' lawsuit challenging new state pension rules have a long history. Here's a look at key developments:

1997-1998 -- In response to court rulings and litigation from public employee unions, the Contra Costa, Alameda, Merced and Marin county retirement associations expand their public employees' pension-calculation formula to include terminal pay, which consists largely of unused vacation that an employee cashes out upon retirement.

Jan. 1, 2011 -- In the wake of mounting public opposition to pension spiking, Contra Costa's retirement board reverses course and bans the inclusion of terminal pay in the pensions for new hires starting on this date.

August 2012 -- Legislature passes and Gov. Jerry Brown later signs Assembly Bill 197, which prohibits counting terminal pay in the pension-calculation formula.

October 2012 -- Contra Costa retirement board officially interprets Assembly Bill 197 to apply to current workers and not just new hires. Alameda, Marin and Merced retirement boards would come to the same conclusion.

Nov. 27, 2012 -- Public employee unions in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin and Merced counties file lawsuits challenging AB197.

Nov. 29, 2012 -- Contra Costa County Judge David Flinn grants an injunction and blocks implementation of AB197 pending his decision. (Three of the four cases were later consolidated. Marin's case had advanced too far for consolidation and proceeded on its own.)


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January -- California Attorney General Kamala Harris agrees to defend AB197.

Nov. 8 -- In a preliminary ruling, Flinn sides with state attorneys and agrees the retirement associations unlawfully included terminal pay in pension calculations. He left open the question of what to do about it.

Dec. 10 -- Flinn to hear oral arguments on whether retirees and current employees have a guaranteed right to the higher pension benefits that came out of the inclusion of terminal pay even if the retirement associations improperly granted them.

Source: Bay Area News Group research