Friday, November 2, 2012

Vote No on Judicial Pay Cut Referendum - NJ Law Journal Editorial Board

The New Jersey Law Journal Editorial Board has endorsed the State Bar Association's call to reject ballot Question No. 2.  Supported by the Republican Governor and Democratic Legislature - it would amend the State Constitution and reinstate an increase in sitting judges' contributions to health care and pension benefits. - gwc

Vote NO on No. 2  (c) 2012 ALM

Three months ago, a divided state Supreme Court defied Gov. Chris Christie and affirmed a trial court ruling inDePascale v. State that the New Jersey Constitution's no-diminution clause barred a legislated increase in the pension and health benefit contributions of the state's appointed judiciary. When Christie denounced the lower court judge as a protector and member of a "little cliquey club of 423," the State Bar Association rose to the defense of judicial independence and Assignment Judge Linda Feinberg, the Trenton judge whose court was the mandatory venue for Judge Paul DePascale's challenge.
When the court ruled that take-home pay may not be diminished, the governor and Legislature promptly proposed and placed on the ballot Public Question No. 2 to amend the constitution. A recent Rutgers Eagleton poll reports that an overwhelming 70 percent of voters favor the measure, which asks:
"Do you approve an amendment to the New Jersey Constitution, as agreed to by the Legislature, to allow contributions set by law to be taken from the salaries of Supreme Court Justices and Superior Court Judges for their employee benefits?"
New Jersey judges are nominated by the governor and confirmed by the State Senate for a seven-year term. They then must repeat the process to receive tenure until the mandatory retirement age of 70. During Christie's three years as governor, he has been in a standoff with the Legislature, leaving two vacancies on the high court. But with the proposed amendment, the legislative and executive branches are united in budget-cutting zeal.
Though it may well be futile, the State Bar has again responded strongly, seeing the public question as a threat to the independence of judges who already must run the political gauntlet of nomination and confirmation twice. Bar president Kevin McCann stated in a public letter: "While this proposal purports to put judges together with other government employees in connection with deductions from salaries for pensions, health benefits and other similar benefits, it actually represents a stark change in our state government and upends an historical protection that has kept the judicial system of our state free from partisan politics."
We agree and urge all to vote no on Public Question No. 2.

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