An attorney for trustees of the $79 billion New Jersey Pension Fund, Trenton, said his clients haven’t decided to appeal a Superior Court judge’s ruling dismissing their suit to reinstate state pension contributions that had been — and will be — withheld by Gov. Chris Christie.
Trustees of three of the seven pension plans that comprise the New Jersey Pension Fund had sued in Superior Court in Trenton arguing the governor’s actions represented a breach of contract. The three plans — the Public Employees’ Retirement System, the Teachers’ Pension and Annuity Fund and the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System — account for about 97% of the total pension fund assets.
However, on Thursday, Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson dismissed the case after hearing oral arguments by attorneys representing trustees and the state.“We have great respect for Judge Jacobson, but we disagree with her decision,” Bennet D. Zurofsky, an attorney for the trustees, wrote in an e-mail. “Our clients, the trustees of the pension plans, will decide whether an appeal is taken and we have not yet had the opportunity to review her decision and their options with them.”
The trustees’ lawsuit, which was filed in July and later amended, asked the court to require the state to make the withheld payments for the pension plans for fiscal years 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Mr. Christie’s withholding of some payments for the 2014 fiscal year has been upheld in Superior Court, and his fiscal 2015 withholding was upheld in the state Supreme Court.
For the 2014 fiscal year, the governor cut the payment to $696 million from the promised $1.58 billion. For the 2015 fiscal year, he cut the payment to $681 million from the promised $2.25 billion. For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016, his budget calls for a payment of $1.3 billion rather than $3.07 billion.
If the trustees appeal to the state Supreme Court, they will be asking, in effect, that the court reconsider the legal reasoning it used in a June 9 ruling that supported Mr. Christie’s actions.
In a case that was separate from the trustees’ lawsuit, the Supreme Court ruled 5-2 that the governor’s withholding of some payments for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2015, wasn’t a violation of the state’s constitution. More than a dozen unions had sued the governor to make the full payment to the pension system.