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Police and Law Enforcement Home  >  Police News  >  NJ PBA Responds to Federal Court Ruling

 

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NJ PBA Responds to
 Federal Court Ruling

Press Release

NJLawman.com
Police and Law Enforcement News
Tuesday, March 6, 2012  8:21 a.m.

 

The New Jersey State PBA issued the following press release:

Today, Judge Thompson, of the United States District Court in New Jersey, issued an opinion which dismisses on purely jurisdictional grounds the suit brought by the New Jersey State PBA, FMBA, NJEA, CWA, and many other unions, as well as numerous individuals whose rights have been violated by the 2011 pension law (Chapter 78).  We note that Judge Thompson’s decision was a very narrow decision and did not decide the merits of any of the unions’ claims. New Jersey State PBA President Anthony Wieners said, “While we are disappointed with the decision, our resolve to continue this fight has never been stronger.”  Chapter 78, among other things, eliminated cost of living increases even for retirees who had already completed their decades of service to their employers with the promise that their pensions would be protected against at least some of inflation, and imposed substantial increases on employees and retirees for health care and pensions.  Of course, while our State government imposed these reductions in benefits and these increases in costs upon employees and retirees, the State had also managed to substantially reduce the amount it pays. 

The State PBA has been very active and vocal about the State’s failure to fulfill its obligations.  In reducing the amount it pays, the State puts off onto our children the obligations that it should be shouldering now.  Of course, this is but a continuation of a long history over many years of the State not paying any of its statutory obligations to the pension systems.  Because the unions and affected individuals claimed that the 2011 pension law violated federal constitutional rights as well as state constitutional rights, we filed in federal court.  The State and the other defendants moved to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and moved to dismiss all of the claims on their merits. 

Today, the court concluded that it did not have jurisdiction because the 11th Amendment bars suits against the state, or even its officers, if the remedy is a payment of money from the state for past violations of the law.  The court apparently concluded that even though the plaintiffs sought prospective relief, that a judgment for the plaintiffs would ultimately require the state to strike down Chapter 78 and the state would have to pay substantial money based upon the prior law, and was thus not prospective.  It is important to note that the judge noted that this area of law was “murky” and that there was often no clear answer. Today, Judge Thompson, of the United States District Court in New Jersey, issued an opinion which dismisses on purely jurisdictional grounds the suit brought by the New Jersey State PBA, FMBA, NJEA, CWA, and many other unions, as well as numerous individuals whose rights have been violated by the 2011 pension law (Chapter 78).  We note that Judge Thompson’s decision was a very narrow decision and did not decide the merits of any of the unions’ claims. New Jersey State PBA President Anthony Wieners said, “While we are disappointed with the decision, our resolve to continue this fight has never been stronger.”  Chapter 78, among other things, eliminated cost of living increases even for retirees who had already completed their decades of service to their employers with the promise that their pensions would be protected against at least some of inflation, and imposed substantial increases on employees and retirees for health care and pensions.  Of course, while our State government imposed these reductions in benefits and these increases in costs upon employees and retirees, the State had also managed to substantially reduce the amount it pays. 

The State PBA has been very active and vocal about the State’s failure to fulfill its obligations.  In reducing the amount it pays, the State puts off onto our children the obligations that it should be shouldering now.  Of course, this is but a continuation of a long history over many years of the State not paying any of its statutory obligations to the pension systems.  Because the unions and affected individuals claimed that the 2011 pension law violated federal constitutional rights as well as state constitutional rights, we filed in federal court.  The State and the other defendants moved to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and moved to dismiss all of the claims on their merits. 

Today, the court concluded that it did not have jurisdiction because the 11th Amendment bars suits against the state, or even its officers, if the remedy is a payment of money from the state for past violations of the law.  The court apparently concluded that even though the plaintiffs sought prospective relief, that a judgment for the plaintiffs would ultimately require the state to strike down Chapter 78 and the state would have to pay substantial money based upon the prior law, and was thus not prospective.  It is important to note that the judge noted that this area of law was “murky” and that there was often no clear answer.  

While we strongly disagree with the court’s conclusion, we emphasize that the decision was limited only to the “jurisdictional” question whether this suit can be brought in federal court.  Judge Thompson did not rule on the defendants’ motion to dismiss the suit on the merits of the claims.  The Judge did not make any findings, or reach any decision, on the merits of the case itself.  It just concluded that it cannot be brought in federal court.  Our claims remain very much alive and we intend to pursue them.

We understood from the beginning that this fight would not be easy.  The choice right now is whether to appeal this ruling on jurisdiction to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, which would take many months at least, or to file the suit against all of the original defendants in state court, which we would do immediately if we chose not to appeal.  We are discussing our options with our attorneys.  But, whatever we decide to do, the we will make this decision based upon the best interests of the over 32,000 active and retired law enforcement officers whom we represent.

While we strongly disagree with the court’s conclusion, we emphasize that the decision was limited only to the “jurisdictional” question whether this suit can be brought in federal court.  Judge Thompson did not rule on the defendants’ motion to dismiss the suit on the merits of the claims.  The Judge did not make any findings, or reach any decision, on the merits of the case itself.  It just concluded that it cannot be brought in federal court.  Our claims remain very much alive and we intend to pursue them.

We understood from the beginning that this fight would not be easy.  The choice right now is whether to appeal this ruling on jurisdiction to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, which would take many months at least, or to file the suit against all of the original defendants in state court, which we would do immediately if we chose not to appeal.  We are discussing our options with our attorneys.  But, whatever we decide to do, the we will make this decision based upon the best interests of the over 32,000 active and retired law enforcement officers whom we represent.

-NJLawman.com

 

 

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