Judges’ Pension Contribution Increase Ruled as Unconstitutional Attack on an Independent Judiciary | NJ Labor Laws

By Thomas McKinney

A divided New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that a law that increases pension and health-care contributions for state employees, including judges, violates a New Jersey constitutional ban on reducing judicial salaries. The 3-2 ruling said the 2011 Pension and Health Care Benefits Act violates the constitutional principle that judicial salaries cannot be cut as retribution for politically unpopular decisions by judges. 

The majority opinion stated, “A Court that cannot protect its own independence is not one that can be counted on to protect the fundamental rights of others in challenging times.” The two dissenting justices argued that the law does not violate the New Jersey Constitution because (1) the plain language of the Constitution states that judicial “salaries” cannot be cut (while the law at issue applied only to fringe benefits) and (2) a general law such as the pension act which applies to all state and municipal employees cannot be viewed as singling out judges for unpopular decisions.

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About the Author
Tom McKinney is an experienced NJ Employment Lawyer in all major areas of labor and employment law, including discrimination, harassment, overtime violations, wage and hour claims, sexual harassment, wrongful discharge, Title VII, ADA, ADEA, FMLA, LAD, FLSA, and all other employment law claims. Tom is admitted to practice in the States of New Jersey and New York, United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Southern District of New York, District of New Jersey, and United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Prior to forming the firm, Tom practiced at Gibbons P.C. in Newark, NJ. If you have any questions regarding this article, contact Tom here today.