CITY OF MIAMI FIREFIGHTERS AND POLICE OFFICERS RETIREMENT TRUST & PLAN, et al., Appellants,
Lieutenant Jorge CASTRO, et al., Appellees.
from a non-final order from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade
County, Michael A. Hanzman, Judge. Lower Tribunal Nos.
14-7987 & 14-7997
Kaufman, Jensen & Levinson, and Robert D. Klausner, Adam P.
Levinson and Paul A. Daragjati (Plantation), for appellants.
Rosenberg Legal, PA, and R. Edward Rosenberg; The Silverstein
Firm, LLC, and Ira B. Silverstein (Philadelphia, PA); James
C. Blecke, for appellees.
LOGUE, SCALES and LINDSEY, JJ.
Miami-Dade Circuit Court determined, as a matter of law, that
the two City of Miami retirement boards and their respective
boards of trustees were not protected by sovereign immunity
from the breach of contract claims brought by certain City
employees. We reverse because the subject pension ordinances,
relied upon by the trial court in determining that the
defendants owed contractual duties to the plaintiffs, do not
impose the express contractual obligations that the
plaintiffs alleged were breached. Thus, the retirement boards
and their trustees are sovereignly immune from the alleged
breach of contract claims.
I. Case History
consolidated appeal is from an amended order on a motion to
dismiss entered by the trial court on June 22, 2018. The
order was entered in two cases below which, for ease of
reference, we call the Castro case and the
Rodriguez case. The plaintiffs in the
Castro case (appellees here) are Lieutenant Jorge
Castro and fellow former and current City of Miami Police
officers. The three named defendants in the Castro
case are: the City of Miami Firefighters and Police
Officers Retirement Trust and Plan; the Board of Trustees of
the City of Miami Firefighters and Police Officers
Retirement Trust; and the City of Miami. The plaintiffs in
the Rodriguez case (also appellees here) are Jose
Rodriguez and fellow former and current City of Miami
civilian employees. The three named defendants in the
Rodriguez case are: the City of Miami Civil
Employees and Sanitation Employees Retirement Trust and
Plan; the Board of Trustees of the City of Miami Civil
Employees and Sanitation Employees Retirement Trust; and
the City of Miami. For the purposes of this opinion, the
retirement boards and trustee defendants in both cases will
be referred to collectively as "the Pension
Defendants," and the City of Miami will be referred to
as the "City."
Relevant Background Procedure and Facts
plaintiffs in each case were eligible to receive retirement
benefits in accordance with the terms and conditions of their
retirement plans administered, managed and operated by the
Pension Defendants. Both retirement plans were created
pursuant to, and are memorialized within, city