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N.J. Supreme Court to decide whether to increase judges' health insurance, pension contributionsPrint Email >MaryAnn Spoto | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com By MaryAnn Spoto | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com The Star-Ledger
on July 24, 2012 at 6:35 AM, updated July 24, 2012 at 10:58 AM
TRENTON — The state Supreme Court is expected to issue this morning its highly anticipated ruling on whether New Jersey judges and justices have to pay more toward their pensions and health benefits or whether that extra cost is considered a reduction in salary.
The ruling addresses Gov. Chris Christie’s attempt to have state employees pay more into pension plans, which have been underfunded for decades, and for employees to pick up a greater share of their health care premiums.
While the higher contributions went into effect last year for most state employees, Superior Court Judge DePascale challenged the changes, saying they violate the state Constitution’s prohibition of “diminished” salaries for Superior Court judges and Supreme Court justices while they are in office.
The state Attorney General’s Office has argued the increased contributions are not a salary reduction but are a change in the benefits the jurists receive.
Superior Court Assignment Judge Linda Feinberg, who has since retired, ruled last fall the higher payments are salary cuts for the judges and justices. Bypassing the appellate division, the Supreme Court took up the case directly. That move prompted Christie, who accuse the court of making a rush to judge, to all the justices “unelected, unresponsive public servants” and “the exalted elite.”
That practice of bypassing is rare, but the state’s highest court is permitted to skip the Appellate Division when there are no major facts in dispute or when it believes the issue is a matter of important public interest.
The Supreme Court heard arguments on the issue on March 26.
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