NJ Judges: We’re the .005%

Never mind the 1% to 99% rhetoric that has worked its way into our lexicon since the Occupy movement moved into Zuccotti Park.  With yesterday’s 3-2 decision that judges are exempt from New Jersey’s pension and health benefits reform, our State’s judiciary have declared themselves the .005%.   They are the truly elite. The 400 of New Jersey’s 8.8 million citizens. They don’t have to share in the sacrifice.

As Governor Christie said in Atlantic City yesterday,

“What we did, the administration and the Legislature, was demand that everybody in public employment pay their fair share for the benefits they’re going to get like people in the private sector do every day. And I cannot believe that we’re going to permit one small sector of folks (to be exempt), who consider themselves special, and who by the way granted themselves this special treatment themselves. That doesn’t make any sense to me.’’

“If you’re a police officer, or a fire fighter, or a teacher in this state, and you’re paying more for your health benefits and your pension, I’ve got a feeling you’re pretty frosted if it turns out that a group of judges decides for the whole group of judges that they don’t have to pay their fair share.’’

Hat tip to Capital Quickies

Christie told NJ 101.5’s audience on his monthly Ask the Governor show last night that if the legislature puts a Constitutional Amendment on the ballot this fall, he will campaign for it.  That will be the easiest campaign in the history of the world.   There will likely be 3.9 million New Jerseyans voting on November 6.  There are about 400 judges.  If all of the judges got all of their family members and friends to vote against the Constitutional Amendment, would that add up to even 10,000 votes?   I don’t think so.

As Senator Joe Kyrillos said yesterday, “Judicial independence does not mean judicial supremacy and exceptionalism.”   If the legislature acts by August 6, and it looks as though they will, the people of New Jersey will be sending the Judicial branch an overwhelming reminder that they work for us.   In America, even in New Jersey, the people are Sovereign. “All political power is inherent in the people.”

Even though there is not much time, the legislature should consider recommending other changes to Article VI, Section VI of the State Constitution to the people, since we’ll be making changes to the clause anyway.

Is seven years too long before a Judge is reviewed and reconfirmed?  How about 3 or 4 years?   Is tenure after 7 years, if reconfirmed, until mandatory retirement at age 70 still appropriate? How about a review and reconfirmation every 4, 5, or 7 years until retirement.   When the retirement age of 70 for judges was affirmed by Constitutional Amendment in 1978, the average life expectancy in the United States was 73.5.  Now, the average life expectancy is 78.  Why not increase the mandatory retirement age to 75 or 80? How about establishing a voluntary retirement age before being eligible to collect a pension at 70. Those would create some pension savings.

The Judiciary has given the Legislature an opportunity to make substantive adjustments to the .005%’s superiority and exceptionalism.

As Governor Christie told a Town Hall meeting audience in Garfield on May 2, it is extraordinarily difficult to hold judges accountable in New Jersey.   Now would be a good time to make some changes.

If you agree, contact your legislators and the governor.   Pass this column on and ask others to do the same.  Time is short.


Posted: July 25th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Legislature, New Jersey, NJ Courts, NJ Judiciary, NJ Supreme Court | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

7 Comments on “NJ Judges: We’re the .005%”

  1. firesign58 said at 9:32 am on July 25th, 2012:

    It is called “corruption” and the remedy is judicial recall.

    The legislature can be driven by outraged citizens to enact laws that allow for better accountability. We don’t have kings in this nation. But these “judges” have treated themselves as a king would.

    As has been said, but bears repeating: All pigs are equal, but some are more equal than others.

    Time to throw them all out — first by electing a legislature that actually cares to listen to its citizens instead of just the special interests that fund their campaigns — then by changing the state law to allow for easier recall and other judicial reforms.

    Until the rogue NJ judiciary is brought under control there will be no rule of law in NJ.

  2. NJ Judges: We’re the .005% | Save Jersey said at 10:12 am on July 25th, 2012:

    […] Cross-Posted from MoreMonmouthMusings.com […]

  3. M.Laffey said at 10:25 am on July 25th, 2012:

    Why would you want judges serving until age 75 or 80? Don’t you think turnover is a good thing?
    While I understand everybody’s anger at this decision it is probably legally correct. This was an important check on legislative powers is in the constitution. Of course when it was written the current situation was probably not envisioned. The conservative solution is not to ignore the constitution or construe it to get the result we want (that is what liberals do with constitutions) but to amend it. We should have started the process months ago. There was no reason to wait for the court to make a decision. We all knew what it would be. So let’s forget about recriminations and attacks on the judiciary, let’s not engage in any grandstanding, let’s just get started and get the job done.

  4. Art Gallagher said at 10:37 am on July 25th, 2012:


    I wouldn’t have a problem with a good judge serving until 75 or 80. As life expectancy increases, 70 is becoming to new 60. As life expectancy increases, we will all need to be productive longer into our lives.

    Though, I think more frequent reviews and reconfirmations are a more important proposal than changing the retirement requirement.

    While I am not an attorney as you are, I agree with the other attorney, Chris Chrisite, who said that the Justices in the majority changed the meaning of the word salary in their decision.

    I’m not advocating recriminations or attacks. I’m advocating to make substantive changes that are necessary, and to make them while the iron is hot and we are making changes anyway.

    I realize some will view it as recriminations and attacks. Se la vie.

  5. IMHO said at 10:39 am on July 25th, 2012:

    Perhaps we should go to elected judges

  6. Mlaffey said at 12:20 pm on July 25th, 2012:

    Art, I did not accuse you of recriminations or attacks I was just anticipating the coming wave of comments.
    You are so sensitive!

    As to the governors opinion, He does have an ax to grind. I support what he wants to do but there is no question that this change reduced the salary of Judges. In any event the fisx is not that difficult.

  7. Carolee Adams, President, Eagle Forum of New Jersey said at 2:05 pm on July 25th, 2012:

    “The NYT further explains: “Paul DePascale, a Superior Court judge, challenged the law last year. The court ruling Tuesday exempts most sitting judges from the increase, *but those appointed after the law was passed will be subject to the higher rates.* It does not exempt any other state employees.

    “When a state superior court judge ruled in Mr. DePascale’s favor in October, Mr. Christie called for a constitutional amendment that would allow the governor’s office and the Legislature to reduce judges’ salaries.

    “And when the State Supreme Court took the unusual step of bypassing the appellate court to hear the case on appeal this spring, Governor Christie, employing a standard conservative epithet, called the judges ‘unelected, unresponsive public servants.’”

    If correct, I agree with Mike Laffey: “The conservative solution is not to ignore the constitution or construe it to get the result we want (that is what liberals do with constitutions) but to amend it. We should have started the process months ago.”

    A searing question: why did the Governor wait until now?!

    Second, tenure is a battle conservatives fight on many fronts. Why not here? And, while tenure exists in the highest court of our land, as well as in NJ, the retirement age of 70 must remain.

    Third, this sounds like more grandstanding. If the ruling only affects sitting justices as the Times reports, and not future judges, why not address substantially more to correct this abysmal situation, i. e. the election of judges? I had not supported such elections in the past. But, based upon the success of judicial elections in other states, and considering Governor Christie’s two weak, prior nominations coupled with the composite of our court nominated by past governors, perhaps superior names will emerge – rather than stealth nominees with political connections to satisfy a penchant for terms such as “diversity”. The time may have come to place judicial nominees under the public’s spotlight for their decision, although, unfortunately, I doubt the NJ state legislature has the political will or the guts!

    Let’s not forget Governor Christie was the sole Republican to give vocal support to SCOTUS Justice Sonia Sotomayor and New Jersey’s Chief Justice Stu Rabner in the past in addition to nominating the aforementioned two weak justices. Now, perhaps, he and his appointment’s secretary have recognized that conservatives will not tolerate such weakness. Democrats defeated those two nominees for political purposes; the public, particularly conservatives, had far more substantive reasons for their opposition lending evidence that the public’s judgment can be useful via elections. And, if the Governor’s next nominee to the New Jersey Supreme Court rises above the recent norm, at least one lesson has been learned – and the nominee’s benefits not so coddled.