TRENTON – A state appeals court has sided with a judge’s challenge to the state’s pension and benefits overhaul. The Superior Court denied a motion by the state to dismiss a judge’s appeal of the state pension/benefits overhaul, and has granted declaratory judgment.
“When considering a motion to dismiss, the court’s inquiry is limited to examining the legal sufficiency of the facts alleged on the face of the complaint,” the court ruled this afternoon.
“Plaintiff is entitled to ‘every reasonable inference of fact,’” the court said in its ruling. “For the reasons set forth herein, applying that standard, the motion to dismiss is denied.”
The suit was brought by Hudson County Judge Paul M. DePascale.
The Superior Court stated that “While the highest presumption of constitutional validity imposes a tremendous hurdle to a party seeking to invalidate an act of the Legislature, here, the plaintiff has met that burden.”
At the heart of the lawsuit is the argument that the state Constitution specifically prevents the salaries of judges from being reduced during their time on the bench.
“In this litigation, plaintiff seeks declaratory judgment declaring Chapter 78, the Pension and Health Care Benefits Act, signed into law by Governor Christie on June 28, 2011, in violation,” of the state Constitution.
Declaratory Judgment, and the relief sought, is granted in favor of the plaintiff. The motion to dismiss is denied,” the court ruled.
“Suffice it to say, in light of the constitutional protections afforded Justices of the Supreme Court and Judges of the Superior Court, they must be provided with the same or comparable level of benefits, at the same cost, during their terms of appointment in the absence of an increase in salary,” the ruling by Superior Court states.
DePascale has argued in his suit that his biweekly deduction toward his pension under the judges’ retirement system would increase from $126.44 to $697.59. The judge earns $165,000.
By 2017, the deduction from his salary would exceed $18,000, he argued in the court suit.
He said the legislation is unconstitutional because it cuts into the salaries.
The legislation calls for increased judicial contributions to the JRS to 12 percent over seven years.