Trenton, NJ – The Senate and Assembly overwhelmingly passed a joint resolution today calling for a public vote on a proposed constitutional amendment to the New Jersey Constitution which would, if approved, lead to judges paying more in pension and benefit contributions.
The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled last week in a 3-2 vote that judges are exempt from increased pension contributions, imposed by law last year on most public workers in the state, citing the 1947 New Jersey Constitution's provision that judge's "salaries" may not be diminished. In her dissent, Associate Justice Anne Patterson said she saw no basis for the ruling. The framers of the state’s constitution chose the word “salary,” not benefits or pensions, and that word salary has a specific meaning “that excludes the concept of contributions for pension and health benefits.”
Governor Chris Christie released the following statement regarding today’s bipartisan, decisive and overwhelming passage of a constitutional amendment: "Rarely has the public seen such unanimity between the legislative and executive branches that the judicial branch was dead wrong. I congratulate the legislature for their decisive, bipartisan action that lives up to the promise of our historical pension and benefit reform by making sure everyone is treated fairly. I pledge to do all I can this fall to ensure passage of this amendment to our constitution and truly believe that New Jersey voters will deliver the same message of fairness to the judiciary as well."
Christie says judges contribute about $59,000 toward their pensions and get back about $2.3 million in benefits.
In an e-mail message, Senator Michael J. Doherty wrote, "SCR-110, a proposed constitutional amendment, will overturn this egregious decision and ensure that judges and justices bear their fair share of the cost of incredibly lucrative pensions and healthcare benefits. In addition, the proposed constitutional amendment reaffirms that the Supreme Court is a co-equal, rather than superior, branch of state government."
The measure heads to Gov. Christie's desk for his signature.