Assemblyman assesses hurdles his proposed constitutional amendment faces

TRENTON – The assemblyman who introduced the proposed constitutional amendment concerning judicial salaries is aware of the difficulties he faces in getting it before the voters.

Sam Thompson, (R-13), Matawan, has introduced ACR210, which seeks to amend the state Constitution, removing the provision that protects judicial salaries from being diminished.

“It probably won’t be easy,” he said today. Since he needs two-thirds approval of both houses in a given year, or a majority vote in two consecutive years, he knows it may be something of an uphill battle.

And that is despite the fact that the pension/benefits reform passed this summer with bipartisan support.

“It had enough backing to pass,’’ Thompson said. “Enough Democrats joined with us to get it passed,’’ but he said that is not a guarantee the votes are there to make sure this amendment proposal has smooth sailing.

The state Supreme Court will hear an expedited review of the case, in which a lower court ruled the reform cannot be applied to sitting judges because the constitution protects them from salary adjustments.

“They can’t understand simple plain language,” Thompson said of the judicial reasoning that benefits are part of salary. As far as Thompson is concerned, salary is just that; items such as taxes and benefit contributions affect salary, but are not salary itself.

And now that the case is before the state’s highest court?

“I don’t trust the Supreme Court, and how they will interpret that,’’ he said.

And that led to the proposed constitutional amendment, which Gov. Christie earlier said he wanted introduced as well.

“I’ve come to the conclusion based on the opinion rendered by the court that if you leave it up to the judges to determine what is in the Constitution it doesn’t matter what you have in there,’’ Thompson said.

“So the simplest thing is don’t have anything in there for them to interpret,’’ he said.

His amendment would eliminate the wording the court relied on its ruling.

Earlier story:

Resolution targets constitutional protection of judicial salaries

  Assemblyman assesses hurdles his proposed constitutional amendment faces