Up to 80 tenured New Jersey judges will file a lawsuit later this month targeting Gov. Chris Christie over the impact his cuts will have on their pension and health benefits, according to a June 30 memo obtained by NJBIZ.
Judges currently earn between $165,000 to $192,795 each year, and contribute from $4,950 to $5,783 to their pensions annually, according to the memo, which was issued by Superior Court Judge Melvin Gelade. Under the recently passed public worker pension and health legislation, judges hired after January 1996 would, after seven years, see their annual retirement contributions jump to between $19,800 and $23,135 a year.
The suit will ask for a temporary injunction blocking the changes, and is expected to be filed in a Hudson County court, with a Hudson County judge to be named as the lead plaintiff.
“It is anticipated that only tenured judges should actively participate in, and contribute to, the financing of a suit,” according to the memo. “Non-tenured judges may anticipate being asked about their involvement at their reappointment hearings.”
Attorney Justin Walder, a member of the Roseland law firm Walder, Hayden & Brogan, will represent the plaintiffs, according to the memo. Walder did not return multiple calls seeking comment.
“The state constitution prevents the government from tampering with our compensation while we’re serving our term,” said a judge who expects to join the suit. “We thought we would be exempt from Christie’s pension and health cutbacks, but this appears to be payback for the state Supreme Court’s Abbott District ruling.”
The judges believe the suit will ultimately reach the state Supreme Court, and hope to have the high court hear it before Christie nominee Anne Patterson is seated in September, according to the judge, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Chief Justice Stuart Rabner will recuse himself from the case, the judge added.