Judge: NJ can't collect more from judges for now

| 15 Feb 2012 | 10:02

    CAMDEN, N.J. — A state court judge ruled against Gov. Chris Christie's administration for a second time Oct. 26 in a lawsuit over whether the state can increase judges' health insurance and pension contributions. Judge Linda Feinberg ruled that the state cannot increase judges' contributions while the case proceeds. Last week, Feinberg sided with Hudson County Superior Court Judge Paul DePascale, who sued the state over its pension and benefits overhaul. He argued that the increases would diminish his salary. He says that violates a state constitutional provision against decreasing judges' salaries. The state sought to collect the higher pensions while Christie's administration appeals the ruling that challenges a piece of one of his landmark accomplishments as governor. Christie, a Republican who often criticizes New Jersey's judges for trying to make laws rather than merely interpret them, angrily accused Feinberg of ruling in her own self-interest. He has called for a constitutional amendment that would make the case moot — though that appears unlikely to gain much traction in a Legislature controlled by Democrats. Christie's spokesman, Michael Drewniak, did not immediately reply to an email message Wednesday requesting comment. The higher health and pension contributions apply to all state and local government employees. They went into effect for state workers this month and have been taken out of just one paycheck so far. New Jersey judicial salaries start at $165,000. Judges pay 3 percent of their salaries toward their pensions — an amount Christie's overhaul would raise to 12 percent by 2017. The biweekly higher pension contributions cost most judges about $80. Their health care costs depend on the size of their families and which plan they select. The biggest increase for their health care costs would be just under $2,800 per year.