Andy Beshear, Democratic attorney general of Kentucky, was awarded another court victory in his ongoing pension lawsuit against GOP Gov. Matt Bevin, by getting a witness knocked out in the case.
The governor responded by calling the judge politically biased against him.
Beshear’s legal team filed a protective order against Bevin’s administration to stop it from taking Beshear’s depositions reports WKYT. Beshear’s lawyers objected to Bevin’s lone witness for the case—an attorney who works for him. Backed by the Kentucky Education Association and the Fraternal Order of Police, Beshear’s office said that this would deem the witness as inappropriate, as a conflict of interest.
When Judge Phillip Shepherd of the Franklin County Circuit Court granted the motion in Beshear’s favor, he reiterated his goals of keeping the case on the “legal issues.”
Bevin’s team said that the ruling deprives his team of their right to collect information and evidence for their argument. Steve Pitt, Bevin’s attorney, said that while legal issues sound great, they “are often defined by the facts of the case, and here, the facts of the case are very much an issue.”
The governor labeled the judge’s decision as political. He called Shepherd “the most incompetent hack of a judge” in an interview on 55KRC Radio in Cincinnati. “This guy’s a former Democrat operative. He used to be in a previous Democrat administration as an appointee. Now he happens to be a—quote, unquote—judge,” he said in the interview, reported by the Courier Journal.
At the center of the court dispute is a pension reform bill that aims to shore up the worst-funded state’s $40 billion shortfall by cutting teacher benefits and changing the pension plan for new hires. Beshear says the bill itself is illegal as it violates the state constitution, and he decries the way it was passed. Bevin inserted the reform measure into a sewage bill late in the 2018 legislative session. The bill was then passed the next day without legislative review or public comment.
Beshear issued a statement where he touted the victory and also announced a website which tracks the entire legal procedure from both sides. The site, ag.ky.gov/pensionbill has a full timeline as well as links to Beshear and Bevin’s filings to keep the public informed of the full procedure.
Last month, Judge Shepherd awarded Beshear his first victory in the case when he ruled against the governor’s bid to disqualify the attorney general. Bevin noted that Beshear advised lawmakers on the pension measure and then sued when they ignored his advice.. The governor argued that doing both things was unethical, but Shepherd felt otherwise, allowing Beshear to carry on with the lawsuit.
Bevin’s main response to all allegations is due May 23, with Beshear’s retort due May 30. An oral argument will be held in the Franklin County Circuit Court on June 7.