Newark paper slams gov's treatment of Supreme Court

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Nov 14, 2011


TRENTON, N.J. (Legal Newsline) - New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has gone "way too far" in his criticism of the state Supreme Court, according to a recent op-ed.

The New Jersey Supreme Court recently decided to take up a case over how much public employees should contribute to their insurance and pensions before an intermediate appeals court did.

The Star-Ledger editorial board on Sunday described the state's judges as the governor's "favorite political pinata."

"And now he's become that kid at the birthday party who won't let go of the stick, because he's not done showing off," the newspaper wrote.

At issue is a new law requiring all state employees, including judges, to pay more toward their benefits.

The state's high court decided Wednesday to bypass an appeals court and consider the issue itself.

Christie, in response Thursday, lashed out at the Court -- calling its justices "unelected, unresponsive public servants" and "the exalted elite" -- and questioned their getting involved.

Last month, Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg declared the law unconstitutional.

"This outrageous, self-serving decision, where a judge is protecting her own pocketbook and those of her colleagues, is why the public has grown to have such little faith in the objectivity of the Judiciary," Christie said in a statement at the time.

"These political appointees, who are the most lavishly paid public workers, with the richest lifetime benefits, have now had one of their own rule that they are above the law and should be treated preferentially."

He added, "We trust that the Supreme Court will reverse this ridiculous decision and find that judges should have to pay their fair share, just like every other public employee."

But Christie now fears the Court has decided to handle the case purely for its own benefit.

The governor pointed to Justice Virginia Long, who is presiding over the case and is getting close to the mandatory age of retirement.

The Star-Ledger notes that bypassing the appeals court isn't typical, but is permitted -- especially if a case is "a matter of vital public interest."

"Remember, we agreed with Christie that judges should pay more for their benefits. But instead of simply stating his opposition to this latest decision, the governor once again goes way too far, accusing the justices of acting politically and calling their actions 'manipulation,'" the newspaper wrote.

"Every time he launches into one of these personal attacks on their integrity -- a transparent attempt to intimidate a co-equal branch of government -- he's totally out of line."

The case, the Star-Ledger argues, will ultimately end up before the Court. So why make such a fuss?

Because he likes it, the newspaper says.

"Someone like Christie, with a license to practice law, should know better than anybody why judges must be protected against political pressure. When he calls our judges 'self-serving,' he could easily be talking about himself," it wrote.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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