N.J. lawmakers try to overrule judges with constitutional amendment

New Jersey lawmakers will vote Monday on a proposed constitutional amendment that would require state judges to contribute more to their pensions and health benefits.

The push for the amendment comes after New Jersey’s Supreme Court ruled that benefit reforms the Legislature enacted last year don’t apply to judges because the constitution says their salaries can’t be lowered.

Sen. Shirley Turner says amending the constitution so judges contribute more as other state workers are required to do is a matter of economic fairness.

“It is patently unfair that they have a Cadillac plan, or moreso a Rolls-Royce pension plan, and they pay so little into it,” said Turner, D-Mercer.

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The New Jersey Bar Association opposes the amendment, saying it would be a dangerous intrusion of one branch of government into the independence of another.

Sen. Dick Codey voted against the pension reform legislation, but he says judges should not be exempt.

“Whether I agreed with that legislation or disagreed, it is the law of the land, and they are like everybody else,” said Codey, D-Union. “They’re public employees. They have to do the same thing, and it’s the right thing to do.”

Lawmakers are trying to beat an early August deadline to approve the amendment so it can go on the November ballot for voters to decide.

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