The success or failure of attempts by the City of Stockton to avoid impairing the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) in bankruptcy may depend on federal bankruptcy law superseding state law, according to attorneys watching the case.

“Not much trumps federal bankruptcy law when federal bankruptcy law applies,” said William C. Rhodes, a partner with Ballard Spahr. He said that when a municipality files for federal bankruptcy protection, it cannot pick and choose bankruptcy provisions to elevate state-level obligations.

“I look forward to resolution of that issue,” Mr. Rhodes said. “I’m hoping we get clarity from a court ruling on the fact that goes to the merits of the case. If it gets appealed, even better. It won’t stop at the trial level.”