"We're in the early innings," Raimondo, a Democrat, said of the case. "The law is in our favor and we have an excellent legal team. We're going to do our very best to protect the work of the General Assembly."
The unions, however, argue that the pension law is an unconstitutional impairment of contractual right. They insist lawmakers had a duty to look for alternatives before voting to withhold pension benefits that had already been promised.
"They didn't even listen to us," said J. Michael Downey, President of Council 94, a union representing several thousand active and retired public workers. "We've been willing to sit down and resolve this but our ideas weren't listened to."
Also on Friday, the state will ask that high-profile attorney David Boies be allowed to practice in Rhode Island. He has offered to represent the state in the pension lawsuit for $50 an hour — a fraction of his typical fee. Boies, who is famed for his work representing the government in its antitrust case against Microsoft and in Al Gore's unsuccessful presidential campaign challenge in the U.S. Supreme Court, has said he's interested in the case because of its implications for governments around the nation.
The state had asked the Rhode Island Supreme Court to review Taft-Carter's participation in the case because her mother and son receive state pensions. On Thursday, the high court declined to intervene.