1 Case 3:14-cv FAB Document 46 Filed 02/06/15 Page 1 of 75 FRANKLIN CALIFORNIA TAX-FREE TRUST, et al., UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF PUERTO RICO Plaintiffs, v. Civil No (FAB) COMMONWEALTH OF PUERTO RICO, et al., Defendants. BLUEMOUNTAIN CAPITAL MANAGEMENT, LLC, Plaintiff, v. Civil No (FAB) ALEJANDRO J. GARCIA-PADILLA, et al., Defendants. OPINION AND ORDER BESOSA, District Judge. Plaintiffs in these two cases seek a declaratory judgment that the Puerto Rico Public Corporation Debt Enforcement and Recovery Act ( Recovery Act ) is unconstitutional. (Civil No , Docket No. 85; Civil No , Docket No. 20.) Before the Court are three motions to dismiss plaintiffs complaints and one crossmotion for summary judgment. For the reasons explained below, the Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part the three motions to dismiss, (Civil No ,
2 Case 3:14-cv FAB Document 46 Filed 02/06/15 Page 2 of 75 Civil Nos (FAB), (FAB) 2 Docket Nos. 95 & 97; Civil No , Docket No. 29), and GRANTS in part and DENIES in part the cross-motion for summary judgment, (Civil No , Docket No. 78). Because the Recovery Act is preempted by the federal Bankruptcy Code, it is void pursuant to the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution. I. BACKGROUND Plaintiffs collectively hold nearly two billion dollars of bonds issued by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority ( PREPA ). As background for the bases of plaintiffs claims challenging the constitutionality of the Recovery Act, the Court first summarizes relevant provisions of the PREPA Authority Act (which authorized PREPA to issue bonds), the Trust Agreement (pursuant to which PREPA issued bonds to plaintiffs), the Recovery Act itself, and Chapter 9 of the federal Bankruptcy Code. A. The Authority Act of May 1941 In May 1941, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico ( the Commonwealth ) enacted the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority Act ( Authority Act ), P.R. Laws Ann. tit , creating PREPA and authorizing it to issue bonds, id. 193, 206. Through the Authority Act, the Commonwealth expressly pledged to PREPA bondholders that it will not limit or alter the rights or powers hereby vested in [PREPA] until all such bonds at any time issued, together with the interest thereon, are fully met and discharged. Id The Authority Act also expressly gives PREPA
3 Case 3:14-cv FAB Document 46 Filed 02/06/15 Page 3 of 75 Civil Nos (FAB), (FAB) 3 bondholders the right to seek the appointment of a receiver if PREPA defaults on any of its bonds. Id B. The Trust Agreement of January 1974 PREPA issued the bonds underlying these two lawsuits pursuant to a trust agreement with U.S. Bank National Association as Successor Trustee, dated January 1, 1974, as amended and supplemented through August 1, 2011 ( Trust Agreement ). The Trust Agreement contractually requires PREPA to pay principal and interest on plaintiffs bonds promptly. Trust Agreement 701. Plaintiffs bonds are secured by a pledge of PREPA s present and future revenues, id., and PREPA is prohibited from creating a lien equal to or senior to plaintiffs lien on these revenues, id Upon the occurrence of an event of default, as the term is defined in the Trust Agreement, plaintiff bondholders may accelerate payments, seek the appointment of a receiver as authorized by the Authority Act, and sue at law or equity to enforce the terms of the Trust Agreement. Id An event of default occurs when, among other things, PREPA institutes a proceeding for the purpose of effecting a composition between [PREPA] and its creditors or for the purpose of adjusting the claims of such creditors pursuant to any federal or Commonwealth statute now or hereafter enacted. Id. 802(g).
4 Case 3:14-cv FAB Document 46 Filed 02/06/15 Page 4 of 75 Civil Nos (FAB), (FAB) 4 C. The Recovery Act of June 2014 On June 25, 2014, the Commonwealth Senate and House of Representatives approved the Recovery Act, and on June 28, 2014, the Governor signed the Recovery Act into law. The Recovery Act s Statement of Motives indicates that Puerto Rico s public corporations, especially PREPA, face significant operational, fiscal, and financial challenges and are burdened with a heavy debt load as compared to the resources available to cover the corresponding debt service. Recovery Act, Stmt. of Motives, A. To address this state of fiscal emergency, the Recovery Act establishes two procedures for Commonwealth public corporations to restructure their debt. Id., Stmt. of Motives, A, E. It also creates the Public Sector Debt Enforcement and Recovery Act Courtroom (hereinafter, special court ) to preside over proceedings and cases brought pursuant to these two procedures. Id. 109(a). The first restructuring procedure is set forth in Chapter 2 of the Recovery Act and permits an eligible public corporation to seek debt relief from its creditors with authorization from the Government Development Bank for Puerto Rico ( GDB ). Recovery Act 201(b). The public corporation invoking this approach proposes amendments, modifications, waivers, or exchanges to or of a class of specified debt instruments. Id. 202(a). If creditors representing at least fifty percent of the debt in a given class
5 Case 3:14-cv FAB Document 46 Filed 02/06/15 Page 5 of 75 Civil Nos (FAB), (FAB) 5 vote on whether to accept the changes, and at least seventy-five percent of participating voters approve, then the special court may issue an order approving the transaction and binding the entire class. Id. 115(b), 202(d), 204. Chapter 3 of the Recovery Act sets forth the second restructuring approach. Under this approach, an eligible public corporation, again with GDB approval, submits to the special court a petition that lists the amounts and types of claims that will be affected by a restructuring plan. Recovery Act 301(d). The public corporation then files a proposed restructuring plan or a proposed transfer of the corporation s assets. Id The special court may confirm the plan if the plan meets certain requirements, id. 315, including a requirement that at least one class of affected debt has voted to accept the plan by a majority of all votes cast in such class and two-thirds of the aggregate amount of affected debt in such class that is voted, id. 315(e). The special court s confirmation order binds all of the public corporation s creditors to the restructuring plan. Id. 115(c). Chapter 2 of the Recovery Act provides for a suspension period and Chapter 3, an automatic stay, during which time creditors may not assert claims or exercise contractual remedies against the public corporation debtor that invokes the Recovery Act. See Recovery Act 205, 304.
6 Case 3:14-cv FAB Document 46 Filed 02/06/15 Page 6 of 75 Civil Nos (FAB), (FAB) 6 D. Chapter 9 of the Federal Bankruptcy Code The Recovery Act is modeled on Title 11 of the United States Code ( the federal Bankruptcy Code ), and particularly on Chapter 9 of that title. Recovery Act, Stmt. of Motives, E. Chapter 9 governs the adjustment of debts of a municipality, 11 U.S.C. 901 et seq., and municipality includes a public agency or instrumentality of a state, id. 101(40). A municipality seeking to adjust its debts pursuant to Chapter 9 must receive specific authorization from its state. Id. 109(c)(2). Puerto Rico municipalities are expressly prohibited from seeking debt adjustment pursuant to Chapter 9. Id. 101(52). II. THE PRESENT LITIGATION A. Franklin and Oppenheimer Rochester Plaintiffs Second Amended Complaint (Civil No ) Franklin plaintiffs 1 are Delaware corporations or trusts that collectively hold approximately $692,855,000 of PREPA bonds. (Civil No , Docket No. 85 at 3.) Oppenheimer Rochester 1 The Court refers to the following parties collectively as Franklin plaintiffs : Franklin California Tax-Free Trust (for the Franklin California Intermediate-Term Tax Free Income Fund), Franklin Tax-Free Trust (for the series Franklin Federal Intermediate-Term Tax-Free Income Fund, Franklin Double Tax-Free Income Fund, Franklin Colorado Tax-Free Income Fund, Franklin Georgia Tax-Free Income Fund, Franklin Pennsylvania Tax-Free Income Fund, Franklin High Yield Tax-Free Income Fund, Franklin Missouri Tax-Free Income Fund, Franklin Oregon Tax-Free Income Fund, Franklin Virginia Tax-Free Income Fund, Franklin Florida Tax-Free Income Fund, Franklin Louisiana Tax-Free Income Fund, Franklin Maryland Tax-Free Income Fund, Franklin North Carolina Tax-Free Income Fund, and Franklin New Jersey Tax-Free Income Fund), Franklin Municipal Securities Trust (for the series Franklin California High Yield Municipal Bond Fund and Franklin Tennessee Municipal Bond Fund), Franklin California Tax-Free Income Fund, Franklin New York Tax-Free Income Fund, and Franklin Federal Tax-Free Income Fund.
7 Case 3:14-cv FAB Document 46 Filed 02/06/15 Page 7 of 75 Civil Nos (FAB), (FAB) 7 plaintiffs 2 are Delaware statutory trusts that hold approximately $866,165,000 of PREPA bonds. Id. at 4. On August 11, 2014, the Franklin and Oppenheimer Rochester plaintiffs filed a second amended complaint against the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Alejandro Garcia-Padilla (in his official capacity as Governor of Puerto Rico), Melba Acosta (in her official capacity as a GDB agent), and PREPA. (Civil No , Docket No. 85.) The Franklin and Oppenheimer Rochester plaintiffs seek declaratory relief on the following claims: (1) Preemption: that the Recovery Act in its entirety is preempted by section 903 of the federal Bankruptcy Code and violates the Bankruptcy Clause of the United States Constitution; (2) Contract Clause: that sections 108, 115, 202, 312, 315, and 325 of the Recovery Act violate the Contract Clause of the United States Constitution by impairing the contractual obligations imposed by the Authority Act and the Trust Agreement; (3) Takings Clause: that the Recovery Act violates the Takings Clause of the United States Constitution by taking without 2 The Court refers to the following parties collectively as Oppenheimer Rochester plaintiffs : Oppenheimer Rochester Fund Municipals, Oppenheimer Municipal Fund (on behalf of its series Oppenheimer Rochester Limited Term Municipal Fund), Oppenheimer Multi-State Municipal Trust (on behalf of its series Oppenheimer Rochester New Jersey Municipal Fund, Oppenheimer Rochester Pennsylvania Municipal Fund and Oppenheimer Rochester High Yield Municipal Fund), Oppenheimer Rochester Ohio Municipal Fund, Oppenheimer Rochester Arizona Municipal Fund, Oppenheimer Rochester Virginia Municipal Fund, Oppenheimer Rochester Maryland Municipal Fund, Oppenheimer Rochester Limited Term California Municipal Fund, Oppenheimer Rochester California Municipal Fund, Rochester Portfolio Series (on behalf of its series Oppenheimer Rochester Limited Term New York Municipal Fund), Oppenheimer Rochester AMT-Free Municipal Fund, Oppenheimer Rochester AMT-Free New York Municipal Fund, Oppenheimer Rochester Michigan Municipal Fund, Oppenheimer Rochester Massachusetts Municipal Fund, Oppenheimer Rochester North Carolina Municipal Fund, and Oppenheimer Rochester Minnesota Municipal Fund.
8 Case 3:14-cv FAB Document 46 Filed 02/06/15 Page 8 of 75 Civil Nos (FAB), (FAB) 8 just compensation plaintiffs contractual right to seek the appointment of a receiver, see Recovery Act 108(b), and plaintiffs lien on PREPA revenues, see id. 129(d), 322(c); and (4) Stay of Federal Court Proceedings: that section 304 of the Recovery Act unconstitutionally authorizes a stay of federal court proceedings when a public corporation files for debt relief pursuant to the Recovery Act. (Civil No , Docket No. 85 at ) B. Franklin and Oppenheimer Rochester Plaintiffs Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment On August 11, 2014, the Franklin and Oppenheimer Rochester plaintiffs filed a cross-motion for summary judgment on their preemption and stay of federal court proceedings claims (while opposing original motions to dismiss). (Civil No , Docket No. 78.) C. Plaintiff BlueMountain s Amended Complaint (Civil No ) BlueMountain Capital Management, LLC (for itself and for and on behalf of investment funds for which it acts as investment manager) ( BlueMountain ) is a Delaware company that holds PREPA bonds and that manages funds that hold more than $400,000,000 of PREPA bonds. (Civil No , Docket No. 20 at 6.) On August 12, 2014, BlueMountain filed an amended complaint against Alejandro Garcia-Padilla (in his official capacity as Governor of Puerto Rico), Cesar R. Miranda Rodriguez (in his official capacity as the Attorney General of Puerto Rico), and John Doe (in his official
9 Case 3:14-cv FAB Document 46 Filed 02/06/15 Page 9 of 75 Civil Nos (FAB), (FAB) 9 capacity as a GDB agent). (Civil No , Docket No. 20.) Plaintiff BlueMountain seeks declaratory relief on the following claims: (1) Preemption: that the Recovery Act in its entirety is preempted by the federal Bankruptcy Code and violates the Bankruptcy Clause of the United States Constitution; (2) Contract Clauses: that the Recovery Act impairs the contractual obligations imposed by the Authority Act and the Trust Agreement and therefore violates the contract clauses of the United States and Puerto Rico constitutions; and (3) Stay of Federal Court Proceedings: that sections 205 and 304 of the Recovery Act unconstitutionally authorize a stay of federal court proceedings when a public corporation files for debt relief pursuant to the Recovery Act. (Civil No , Docket No. 20 at 83.) D. Consolidation Order On August 20, 2014, the Court consolidated Civil Case Nos and In so doing, the Court aligned the briefing schedules for both cases but did not merge the suits into a single cause of action or change the rights of the parties. (Civil No , Docket No. 92; Civil No , Docket No. 26.) The two cases contain overlapping claims but are distinct in three salient ways. First, the Franklin and Oppenheimer Rochester plaintiffs bring suit against Commonwealth defendants and PREPA (in Civil No ), whereas BlueMountain names only Commonwealth defendants (in Civil No ). Second, only the Franklin and
10 Case 3:14-cv FAB Document 46 Filed 02/06/15 Page 10 of 75 Civil Nos (FAB), (FAB) 10 Oppenheimer Rochester plaintiffs raise a Takings Clause claim. Third, only BlueMountain brings a Puerto Rico Constitution Contract Clause claim. E. Commonwealth and PREPA Motions to Dismiss On September 12, 2014, the Commonwealth defendants 3 moved to dismiss the Franklin and Oppenheimer Rochester plaintiffs second amended complaint and BlueMountain s amended complaint, and opposed the Franklin and Oppenheimer Rochester plaintiffs cross-motion for summary judgment. (Civil No , Docket No. 95, mem. at Docket No. 95-1; Civil No , Docket No. 29, mem. at Docket No ) 4 The Commonwealth defendants argue that plaintiffs claims are unripe and fail on the merits as a matter of law. PREPA joined the Commonwealth defendants motion to dismiss the Franklin and Oppenheimer Rochester plaintiffs second amended complaint and opposition to the cross-motion for summary judgment. (Civil No , Docket No. 97 at p. 1.) PREPA also filed its own motion to dismiss, arguing that the Franklin and Oppenheimer 3 The following parties are collectively referred to as the Commonwealth defendants : the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Alejandro Garcia-Padilla (in his official capacity as Governor of Puerto Rico), Cesar R. Miranda Rodriguez (in his official capacity as Attorney General of Puerto Rico), Melba Acosta (in her official capacity as a GDB agent), and John Doe (in his official capacity as a GDB agent). 4 These two memoranda are identical. Compare Civil No , Docket No. 95-1, with Civil No , Docket No That is, the Commonwealth defendants raised identical arguments in moving to dismiss the Franklin and Oppenheimer Rochester plaintiffs second amended complaint and BlueMountain s amended complaint.
11 Case 3:14-cv FAB Document 46 Filed 02/06/15 Page 11 of 75 Civil Nos (FAB), (FAB) 11 Rochester plaintiffs lack standing and that their claims are unripe. (Civil No , Docket No. 97.) The Franklin and Oppenheimer Rochester plaintiffs opposed the Commonwealth defendants motion and PREPA s motion, (Civil No , Docket No. 102), and BlueMountain opposed the Commonwealth defendants motion, (Civil No , Docket No. 41). The Commonwealth defendants replied, (Civil No , Docket No. 108; Civil No , Docket No. 44), 5 as did PREPA (Civil No , Docket No. 109). III. SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION Defendants challenge the Court s subject matter jurisdiction and seek dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) ( Rule 12(b)(1) ). Defendants argue that plaintiffs claims are unripe because PREPA has not sought to restructure its debt pursuant to the Recovery Act. Therefore, defendants argue, plaintiffs have no basis to claim that the Recovery Act injured plaintiffs in their capacity as PREPA bondholders. (Civil No , Docket No at pp. 8-13; Civil No , Docket No at pp ) In addition to this ripeness argument, defendant PREPA argues separately that the Franklin and Oppenheimer Rochester plaintiffs lack standing. (Civil No , Docket No. 97 at pp ) 5 These two memoranda are identical. Compare Civil No , Docket No. 108, with Civil No , Docket No. 44.
12 Case 3:14-cv FAB Document 46 Filed 02/06/15 Page 12 of 75 Civil Nos (FAB), (FAB) 12 A. Rule 12(b)(1) Motion to Dismiss Standard Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), a defendant may seek dismissal of claims by asserting that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1). The plaintiffs bear the burden of clearly alleging definite facts to demonstrate that jurisdiction is proper. Nulankeyutmonen Nkihtaqmikon v. Impson, 503 F.3d 18, 25 (1st Cir. 2007). The Court accepts as true the well-pled factual allegations in the plaintiffs complaints and makes all reasonable inferences in the plaintiffs favor. Downing/Salt Pond Partners, L.P. v. Rhode Island & Providence Plantations, 643 F.3d 16, 17 (1st Cir. 2011). On a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, the Court may consider materials outside the pleadings to determine jurisdiction. Gonzalez v. United States, 284 F.3d 281, 288 (1st Cir. 2002). B. Ripeness The ripeness doctrine has roots in both the Article III case or controversy requirement and in prudential considerations. Mangual v. Rotger-Sabat, 317 F.3d 45, 59 (1st Cir. 2003). The basic rationale of the ripeness inquiry is to prevent the courts, through avoidance of premature adjudication, from entangling themselves in abstract disagreements. Roman Catholic Bishop of Springfield v. City of Springfield, 724 F.3d 78, 89 (1st Cir. 2013) (quoting Abbott Labs. v. Gardner, 387 U.S. 136, 148 (1967)). The ripeness test has two prongs: the fitness of the
13 Case 3:14-cv FAB Document 46 Filed 02/06/15 Page 13 of 75 Civil Nos (FAB), (FAB) 13 issues for judicial decision and the hardship to the parties of withholding court consideration. Pac. Gas & Elec. Co. v. State Energy Res. Conservation & Dev. Comm n, 461 U.S. 190, 201 (1983) (quoting Abbott Labs., 387 U.S. at 149). Both the fitness and hardship prongs of this test must be satisfied, although a strong showing on one may compensate for a weak one on the other. McInnis-Misenor v. Maine Med. Ctr., 319 F.3d 63, 70 (1st Cir. 2003). The First Circuit Court of Appeals has repeatedly cautioned that ripeness inquiries are highly fact-dependent, such that the various integers that enter into the ripeness equation play out quite differently from case to case. Verizon New England, Inc. v. Int l Bhd. of Elec. Workers, Local No. 2322, 651 F.3d 176, 188 (1st Cir. 2011) (quoting Doe v. Bush, 323 F.3d 133, 138 (1st Cir. 2003) (quoting Ernst & Young v. Depositors Econ. Prot. Corp., 45 F.3d 530, 535 (1st Cir. 1995))). 1. Plaintiffs Preemption and Contract Clauses Claims Are Ripe As discussed below, the Court concludes that plaintiffs preemption and contract clauses claims are fit for review, and that withholding judgment on these claims will impose hardship. a) Fitness The fitness prong of the ripeness test has both constitutional and prudential components. Roman Catholic Bishop of Springfield, 724 F.3d at 89. The constitutional component is
14 Case 3:14-cv FAB Document 46 Filed 02/06/15 Page 14 of 75 Civil Nos (FAB), (FAB) 14 grounded in the prohibition against advisory opinions and concerns whether there is a sufficiently live case or controversy, at the time of the proceedings, to create jurisdiction in the federal courts. Id. (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). A sound way to determine constitutional fitness is to evaluate the nature of the relief requested; [t]he controversy must be such that it admits of specific relief through a decree of conclusive character, as distinguished from an opinion advising what the law would be upon a hypothetical state of facts. Rhode Island v. Narragansett Indian Tribe, 19 F.3d 685, 693 (1st Cir. 1994) (quoting Aetna Life Ins. Co. of Hartford, Conn. v. Haworth, 300 U.S. 227, 241 (1937)). Texas v. United States, 523 U.S. 296 (1998), provides a prime example of an unfit case where the plaintiff seeks an opinion advising what the law would be in a hypothetical scenario. In that case, the Texas Education Code permitted the imposition of ten possible sanctions if a school district failed the state s accreditation criteria. Texas, 523 U.S. at 298. The State of Texas sought a declaratory judgment that the Voting Rights Act under no circumstances would apply to the imposition of two of these sanctions. Id. at 301. The sanctions, however, were never imposed. Id. at 298. Thus, the circumstances under which the sanctions could be imposed were entirely hypothetical and speculative. As to the fitness inquiry, the United States Supreme
15 Case 3:14-cv FAB Document 46 Filed 02/06/15 Page 15 of 75 Civil Nos (FAB), (FAB) 15 Court concluded that it would not employ its powers of imagination and that the operation of the sanction provisions would be better grasped when viewed in light of a particular application. Id. at 301; see Int l Longshoremen s & Warehousemen s Union, Local 37 v. Boyd, 347 U.S. 222, 224 (1954) ( Determination of the scope... of legislation in advance of its immediate adverse effect in the context of a concrete case involves too remote and abstract an inquiry for the proper exercise of the judicial function. ). Here, plaintiffs preemption and contract clauses claims rely on the enactment of the Recovery Act, not on its application. Plaintiffs do not seek a declaration that the Recovery Act would be preempted if enforced in a hypothetical way. Nor do plaintiffs seek a declaration that the Recovery Act would impair contractual obligations if applied in a hypothetical scenario. Rather, the relief plaintiffs seek - a declaration that the Recovery Act is unconstitutional because federal law preempts it and because the Contracts Clause prohibits it - is conclusive in character, not dependant on hypothetical facts, and completely unlike the advisory opinion sought in Texas. The prudential component of the fitness prong considers the extent to which resolution of the challenge depends upon facts that may not yet be sufficiently developed. Ernst & Young, 45 F.3d at 535. Accordingly, cases intrinsically legal
16 Case 3:14-cv FAB Document 46 Filed 02/06/15 Page 16 of 75 Civil Nos (FAB), (FAB) 16 nature are likely to be found fit. Riva v. Massachusetts, 61 F.3d 1003, 1010 (1st Cir. 1995); see Thomas v. Union Carbide Agr. Products Co., 473 U.S. 568, 581 (1985) (claim that a law violated Article III of the Constitution was fit for review because it was purely legal, and [would] not be clarified by further factual development ). Courts are also likely to find cases fit when all of the acts that are alleged to create liability have already occurred. Verizon New England, 651 F.3d at 189 (quotation marks and citation omitted); see Roman Catholic Bishop of Springfield, 724 F.3d at (dismissing claims that rely on a potential future application of an ordinance as unfit for review, but holding that the claims that rest solely on the existence of the Ordinance are fit for review because no further factual development is necessary ); Pustell v. Lynn Pub. Sch., 18 F.3d 50, 52 (1st Cir. 1994) (finding constitutional challenge fit where [n]o further factual development [was] necessary for [the court] to resolve the question at issue ). The issues presented in plaintiffs preemption claims are purely legal: the Court need not consider any fact to determine whether the Recovery Act, on its face, is preempted by federal law. Plaintiffs contract clauses claims involve two limited factual inquiries: (1) whether the enactment of the Recovery Act substantially impaired the contractual relationships created in the Authority Act and the Trust Agreement, and (2)
17 Case 3:14-cv FAB Document 46 Filed 02/06/15 Page 17 of 75 Civil Nos (FAB), (FAB) 17 whether the enactment of the Recovery Act was reasonable and necessary to serve an important public purpose. See infra Part V. Both of these inquiries involve solely acts that occurred and facts that existed at or before the Recovery Act s enactment in June Thus, plaintiffs contract clauses claims do not require further factual development. The Court therefore finds that plaintiffs preemption and contract clauses claims are fit for review. b) Hardship The hardship prong of the ripeness test evaluates whether the impact of the challenged law upon the plaintiffs is sufficiently direct and immediate as to render the issue appropriate for judicial review. Abbott Labs., 387 U.S. at 152. This inquiry should also focus on the judgment s usefulness and consider whether granting relief would serve a useful purpose, or, put another way, whether the sought-after declaration would be of practical assistance in setting the underlying controversy to rest. Rhode Island, 19 F.3d at 693; accord Verizon New England, 651 F.3d at 188. Plaintiffs allege that the enactment of the Recovery Act totally eliminated several remedial and security rights promised to them in the Authority Act and in the Trust Agreement. First, in the Authority Act, the Commonwealth expressly pledged that it would not alter PREPA s rights until all bonds are fully
18 Case 3:14-cv FAB Document 46 Filed 02/06/15 Page 18 of 75 Civil Nos (FAB), (FAB) 18 satisfied and discharged. P.R. Laws Ann. tit Plaintiffs allege that the Recovery Act eliminates this guarantee by giving PREPA the right to participate in a new legal regime to restructure its debts. Second, section 17 of the Authority Act grants bondholders the right to seek appointment of a receiver if PREPA defaults. P.R. Laws Ann. tit This right is incorporated into section 804 of the Trust Agreement, which guarantees that bondholders have the right to seek the appointment of a receiver as authorized by the Authority Act if PREPA defaults. Trust Agreement 804. Plaintiffs allege that the Recovery Act expressly eliminates the right to seek the appointment of a receiver. See Recovery Act 108(b). 7 Third, the Trust Agreement includes a guarantee that PREPA will not create a lien equal to or senior to the lien on PREPA s revenues that secures plaintiffs bonds. Trust Agreement 712. Plaintiffs allege that the Recovery Act eliminates this guarantee by permitting PREPA to obtain credit secured by a lien that is senior to plaintiffs lien. 6 The Authority Act provides as follows: The Commonwealth Government does hereby pledge to, and agree with, any person, firm or corporation, or any federal, Commonwealth or state agency, subscribing to or acquiring bonds of [PREPA] to finance in whole or in part any undertaking or any part thereof, that it will not limit or alter the rights or powers hereby vested in [PREPA] until all such bonds at any time issued, together with the interest thereon, are fully met and discharged. P.R. Laws Ann. tit This Act supersedes and annuls any insolvency or custodial provision included in the enabling or other act of any public corporation, including Section 17 of [the Authority Act]. Recovery Act 108(b).
19 Case 3:14-cv FAB Document 46 Filed 02/06/15 Page 19 of 75 Civil Nos (FAB), (FAB) 19 See Recovery Act 129(d), 206(a), 322(c). 8 Fourth, in the event of default, the Trust Agreement gives PREPA bondholders the right to accelerate payments. Trust Agreement 803. Plaintiffs allege that the Recovery Act destroys their right to this remedy both during the suspension and stay provisions, Recovery Act 205, 304, and after the special court approves a plan pursuant to 8 Section 322(c) of the Recovery Act permits the special court to authorize public corporations that seek debt relief pursuant to Chapter 3 to obtain credit secured by a senior or equal lien on the petitioner s property that is subject to a lien only if - (1) the petitioner is unable to obtain such credit otherwise; and (2) either (A) the proceeds are needed to perform public functions and satisfy the requirements of section 128 of this Act; or (B) there is adequate protection of the interest of the holder of the lien on the property of the petitioner on which such senior or equal lien is proposed to be granted. Recovery Act 322(c). This right extends to corporations seeking debt relief pursuant to Chapter 2 of the Recovery Act. See id. 206(a) ( After the commencement of the suspension period, an eligible obligor may obtain credit in the same manner and on the same terms as a petitioner pursuant to section 322 of this Act. ) Section 129(d) of the Recovery Act disposes of the adequate protection requirement in section 322(c)(2)(B) when police power justifies it. Id. 129(d).
20 Case 3:14-cv FAB Document 46 Filed 02/06/15 Page 20 of 75 Civil Nos (FAB), (FAB) 20 Chapter 2 or 3, id. 115(b)(2), 115(c)(3). 9 Fifth, the Trust Agreement contains an ipso facto clause that provides that PREPA is deemed in default if PREPA institutes a proceeding for the purpose of effecting a composition between [PREPA] and its creditors or for the purpose of adjusting the claims of such creditors. Trust Agreement 802(g). Plaintiffs allege that the Recovery Act explicitly renders this ipso facto clause unenforceable in a 9 Section 205 prohibits bondholders from exercising remedies during Chapter 2 s suspension period. Recovery Act 205 ( Notwithstanding any contractual provision or applicable law to the contrary, during the suspension period, no entity asserting claims or other rights,... in respect of affected debt instruments... may exercise or continue to exercise any remedy under a contract or applicable law... that is conditioned upon the financial condition of, or the commencement of a restructuring, insolvency, bankruptcy, or other proceedings (or a similar or analogous process) by, the eligible obligor concerned, including a default or an event of default thereunder. ). Section 304 stays any act to collect, assess, or recover on a claim against the petitioner during Chapter 3 s automatic stay period. Id Section 115 prohibits bondholders from exercising remedies after the special court approves a plan pursuant to Chapter 2 or 3. Id. 115(b)(2) ( Upon entry of an approval order... under chapter 2 of this Act... no entity asserting claims or other rights, including a beneficial interest, in respect of affected debt instruments of such eligible obligor... shall bring any action or proceeding of any kind or character for the enforcement of such claim or remedies in respect of such affected debt instruments, except with the permission of the [special court] and then only to recover and enforce the rights permitted under the amendments, modifications, waivers, or exchanges, and the approval order. ); id. 115(c)(3) ( [U]pon entry of a confirmation order,... all creditors affected by the plan... shall be enjoined from, directly or indirectly, taking any action inconsistent with the purpose of this Act, including bringing any action or proceeding of any kind or character for the enforcement of such claim or remedies in respect of affected debt, except as each has been affected pursuant to the plan under chapter 3. ).
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