The only official website for all retired police and firemen from New Jersey.
For all those PFRS retirees that have sent e-mail inquiries about the COLA cases, the Staff at After-
The-Badge has contacted the State and Federal Courts to provide PFRS retirees with the following written summary and current status of all the known court docketed Public Pension Retiree COLA cases.
1. Chapter 78 was signed into law by Republican Governor Chris Christie on June 28, 2011 (P.L. 2011, C. 78). This new law enacted N.J. Senate Bill S-2937 that was primarily sponsored by State Senate President Senator Stephen M. Sweeney (Democrat-Legislative District 3).
Section 25 of Chapter 78 (codified under N.J.S.A. 43:3B-2) suspended all further COLA adjustments as of June 28, 2011 until reactivated by the new pension committees. Under Chapter 78, these new pension committees would consist of Two (2) Committees with Ten (10) members each for the PFRS. The PFRS pension committees would be for the PFRS-State Retirees (e.g. State Corrections Officers) and the PFRS-Local Retirees (e.g. County Deputy Sheriff Officer and Municipal Police Officer & Fire Fighter). These new pension committees would not be established until that portion of the PFRS (State or Local ) had reached at least a 75% percent Target Funded Ratio in 2012.
2. The Public Employees Unions, such as the PBA, FOP, FMBA, PFANJ (together with the Teachers Union, the CWA and other Unions) filed a Class Action Lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Section 25 contained within Chapter 78. Their Lawsuit was brought in the New Jersey Federal District Court located in Trenton. This Lawsuit was filed on or about August 31, 2011 (Civil Action Number 3:11-CV-05024) and assigned to Federal District Judge Anne Thompson, U.S.D.J.
3. On December 12, 2011, Judge Thompson rendered the first of her two written opinions in this Lawsuit. Judge Thompson dismissed the Plaintiff Unions case against the Legislative Defendants (New Jersey Senate and General Assembly). Judge Thompson held that both Legislative Immunity and the 11th Amendment of the Federal Constitution was the basis for her decision to dismiss the Complaint against these named Defendants.
4. On March 5, 2012, Judge Thompson then rendered her second and final written opinion that totality dismissed the Plaintiff Unions case in the Federal District Court. Judge Thompson again held that the 11th Amendment barred the Plaintiff Unions case against both the Governor and State Treasurer. During the pendency of this case, the Plaintiff Unions had voluntarily dismissed their Complaint against the other named Defendant--State of New Jersey.
5. While the Plaintiff Unions case was pending in the Federal District Court in Trenton, another group of PERS retirees had filed a Lawsuit in the State Court. Richard W. Berg was the first listed name of a small group of retired County Prosecutors and Deputy Attorney Generals that brought the first legal challenge to Chapter 78 (Section 25 that suspended the COLA adjustments) in the New Jersey Superior Court in Trenton (Docket Number MER-L-2996-11, filed on or about December 2, 2011).
6. After the Plaintiff Unions case was dismissed in the Federal District Court, a small group of Accidental Disability Retired Police Officers from Middlesex County also filed a lawsuit challenge to Chapter 78 (Section 25) in the New Jersey Superior Court. This lawsuit was filed on or about March 19, 2012 under original Docket Number MID-L-1968-12 (later consented to transfer the case to Mercer County under new Docket Number MER-L-1354-12). These Disability Retired Police Officers and their Spouses sought protection under the Crime Victims Bill of Rights contained within the New Jersey State Constitution (Article I, Paragraph 22). Other counts in their Complaint included Spousal Rights to Marital Property (i.e., PFRS Pension & COLA) under a prior New Jersey Supreme Court case and the Immunity/Exemption Clause under N.J.S.A. 43:16A-17.
7. On or about March 29, 2012, after getting tossed out of the Federal District Court, the Plainitff Unions filed another Class Action Complaint in the New Jersey Superior Court in Trenton. This case was named NJEA, et al. vs. State of New Jersey, et al.. (Docket Number MER-L-771-12).
8 On or about April 23, 2012, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Douglas Hurd (the State Judge assigned the case) allowed the Plaintiff Unions to intervene with the pending Berg Plaintiffs on the limited issue of the constitutionality of Chapter 78, Section 25 (the law that suspended further COLA adjustments after June 28,2011).
9. On May 25, 2012, Judge Hurd presided over legal argument in his Trenton courtroom between the Berg Plaintiffs and the Plaintiff Unions against the Attorney General Office that had represented the named Defendants. Judge Hurd made an oral decision on the record that Chapter 78, Section 25, was constitutional. Judge Hurd then dismissed both of the Plaintiffs lawsuits.
Judge upholds suspension of COLA increases for N.J. public employees
10. Later on August 24, 2012, Judge Hurd dismissed the Disability Retired Police Officers Complaint. But before hearing oral argument on the Attorney General's Motion to Dismiss the Plaintiff's Complaint, the Disability Retired Police Officers sought to remove Judge Hurd from staying on the case because (1) Hurd was a Republican, (2) Hurd did not have the 7 year tenure, and (3) Hurd was the former legal counsel to Acting Governor DiFrancisco, also a Republican. Judge Hurd denied the Plaintiff's Motion to Remove him from the case and then totality dismissed the Plaintiff's Complaint.
11. The Plaintiffs in Berg and the Plaintiff Unions subsequently filed an appeal in the Appellate Division (consolidated appeals under Docket Numbers A-5973-11T1 and A-6002-11T1). Both of these cases are currently in the Legal Briefing stage of their appeals.
12. The Disability Retired Police Officers and their Spouses have also filed an appeal from Judge Hurd's adverse oral opinion dismissing their Complaint. Their case now sits in the Appellate Division under Docket Number A-0632-12T4. This case is also in the Legal Briefing stage of their appeal process.
13. A written decision by the Appellate Division is not expected on any of these current appeals during the 2013 calendar year.
14. At this time, there is no known filed case of any other Plaintiff Retirees challenging Chapter 78, Section 25 in either the New Jersey State or Federal District Courts.