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

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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