Gov. Christie Questions The Supremes [VIDEO]
The State Supreme Court is fast-tracking a judge's lawsuit that seeks to exempt the judiciary from paying more for their pension and health benefits as a result of legislation signed into law last spring.
Governor Chris Christie feels many things about the case are curious.
"I'm a little concerned about the speed with which they want to do this (and) the fact that we've been denied the opportunity to file a reply brief under the current briefing schedule which is very unusual," says Christie. "It seems as if they are trying to shoehorn this into a very truncated time period and I'm also, I have to say mystified by Justice (Virginia) Long being the presiding Justice on this and why the Chief Justice (Stu Rabner) is not participating. That's a complete mystery to me."
Long reaches the mandatory retirement age on March 1 and the High Court's ruling will impact how much she pays for her pension and health care.
Christie asked, "Where's the Chief Justice? Why is he not involved? I hope it's not because Justice Long who is now apparently presiding over this case, if it's not argued before March 1st can't participate………. Let's face it everybody, there's some deadlines coming up here. Justice Long retires March 1st. So I don't know exactly what's going on, but the fact that Justice Long is now presiding over this, the chief justice has mysteriously absented himself from consideration on this - I think those are all things people should be questioning."
A court spokesperson says Justices don't typically give reasons publicly when they recuse themselves from cases.
Video by Dino Flammia
Christie predicted such a response when he said, "They are the exalted elite who don't have to answer any questions from the public about anything unless it's in their interests."
The case started shortly after Christie and Legislative leaders made a deal in the spring to overhaul public worker benefit contributions. In July, Superior Court Judge Paul DePascale sued the state, saying the law violates another state law that sets judges' salaries and says they cannot be reduced.
Most judges are paid $165,000 per year. Under the pension changes, they'll see their contributions rise gradually from 3 percent of their pay to 12 percent by 2017. On Oct. 1, a 4 percent contribution went into effect, costing most judges about $80, but was only taken out of one paycheck before a court stopped it. The governor said the state was ordered to return the money.
Last month, Mercer County Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg rejected Christie's attempt to throw out the lawsuit and ruled that the state cannot increase judges' contributions while the case proceeds. After that ruling, Christie also angrily accused Feinberg of ruling in her own self-interest.