Tag Archive: NJ Supreme Court

The Elephant in the Room

 In one of several versions of a famous parable, “three blind men encounter an elephant for the first time and try to describe it, each touching a different part. “An elephant is like a snake,” says one, grasping the trunk….
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From the Blue Jersey Archives: Three Things You Should Know About Anne Patterson

Promoted by Jason Springer- We’ll call this the first installment of: Better know your nominee

By now you’ve probably heard that Chris Christie has taken the unprecedented step of not reappointing a New Jersey Supreme Court Justice. Christie would like to replace Justice John Wallace with Anne Patterson.

Here are some of the cases she’s taken on:

Big tobacco. In 1998, Anne Patterson represented RJR Nabisco and RJ Reynolds who were defendants in a case brought by 13 plaintiffs, many of which were children of people who died from smoking-related diseases. Here’s an example of who she was defending against:

John Lippincott acts on behalf of the Estate of his father, Jesse Lippincott, Jr., who was diagnosed with lung cancer in either January or February 1995, after a history of smoking beginning in the 1950’s. His father smoked Kent and Marlboro brand cigarettes.

She and her colleagues successfully argued before the Appellate Division that the court should deny these plaintiffs the ability to pursue a class action against the cigarette companies. This was in the midst of the heyday of tobacco litigation.

Lead paint. In 2007, Anne Patterson represented DuPont before the New Jersey Supreme Court in a lawsuit by many of the major cities in New Jersey (e.g. Newark, Jersey City, Camden, East Orange, Bayonne) and several counties (Cumberland, Essex, Union) against lead paint manufacturers, seeking costs of detecting and removing lead paint and providing medical care to residents affected with lead poisoning. The Appellate Division had allowed the case to go forward, but the Supreme Court reversed.

Free speech in malls. In 1990, several groups against the first Gulf War sought to leaflet in several malls around the state. The malls, including the Cherry Hill Mall and the Mall at Mill Creek, attempted to require those groups to buy $1,000,000 in bodily injury insurance and up to $1,000,000 in property damage insurance in order to leaflet there. Anne Patterson represented the Cherry Hill Mall and Woodbridge Center as defendants. The Supreme Court in 1994 held that the groups did have a free speech right to petition in malls – especially when both malls that Patterson represented were allowing less controversial events without the same restrictions. Effectively, the Court found that the malls were discriminating based on speech they disliked, and invalidated such discrimination.

A smoother but still onerous path for non-citizen juveniles

While Donald Trump uses bombast to attack immigrants, NJ Family Court has to deal with thousands of non-citizen child immigrants, many of whom lack legal representation and are unable to speak English. Although the number of children crossing our southern border has decreased, the crisis has shifted to court rooms.

As a result of this week’s NJ Supreme Court ruling the role of the NJ Family Court is clearer, and for the youth a path toward permanent residency and eventually citizenship is now more likely. As the NY Times explains, of the two main paths to winning relief from deportation, asylum is the most difficult to obtain.

Many children (or a family member representing them) instead seek relief under the “Special Immigrant Juvenile” (SIJ) status, which includes as one of its conditions that they show parental abuse, neglect or abandonment. Previously NJ family courts sought proof of such from both parents. In a unanimous decision NJ Supreme Court Judge Mary Cuff wrote that only one parent suffices.

The decision also rejected an Appellate Division ruling that had upheld a family court decision to deny an application for SIJ status. Judge Cuff wrote that when faced with a request for an SIJ order, the NJ Family Court’s sole task is to make factual findings. A family court does not have jurisdiction to grant or deny applications for immigration relief. That role belongs to the federal Immigration Court.

Nonetheless, the path for these young non-citizens remains difficult in family courts where there are too few judges. In Essex County, long suffering from insufficient judges, the family court is in the large Wilentz Justice Building where confidentiality for juvenile cases is observed, but progress can be slow. To complete the entire process requires going through state family court, federal immigration court, and the federal citizenship agency with no free governmental legal counsel available.

For another view of the problem read the Blue Jersey diary Unaccompanied kids fleeing from violence to the U.S.: A morning in NJ’s Immigration Court.

The Pen/Ben Impasse: Suggested Solutions

So the state public employee unions and Gov. Christie are at an impasse now. The unions this year showed strength by not bending to the Pen/Ben Commission’s call for extreme changes. However, the unions want a continuing and higher level of state contributions into their plan to insure its solvency. The 2011 law agreed to by both parties was violated by Christie who said he did not have enough money. The N J Supreme Court sided with him that the debt limitation clause did not allow him and the legislature to bind the government to future payments.

In effect Christie can contribute whatever he wants while the fund’s liabilities continue to march toward bankruptcy. Such is not a good scenario for him or the unions. In the meanwhile the annual actuarially sound contribution needed in a few years could exceed $7 billion, be a huge drag on the budget, and continue to increase without a solution. Both Christie and the unions need to come together.

Having violated the very law he touted for years, Christie should take the first step toward a solution. There is now a concurrent resolution (ACR244) passed by the legislature which urges, but cannot require, that the governor make his pension contribution of $1.3 billion by July 15 for fiscal year 2016. The short-term cost of borrowing the money will be far less than the interest received by investing it all early. Also by doing so Christie could not wait until the end of the budget cycle and then say he has insufficient funds. This would be a sign of his good faith toward the unions. Alternately, and less desirable, he could sign bill S3100 on his desk which requires pension contributions be made on a quarterly basis starting August 1. His failure to do either is sheer arrogance and no way to start the bargaining he says he wants.

For bargaining strategy, the difficulties of the process, other options available to unions, and what the Supreme Court said in spite of ruling in Christie’s favor, go below the fold.

NJ Supreme Court to NJ Public Workers: Screw You

I’m posting this today on behalf of our super-busy Jazzman, who posted it at his own excellent site yesterday afternoon. The breaking news is a few hours old. But the outrage still feels fresh. – Rosi

I think I’ll call Comcast later today and tell them I’m not paying my cable bill any more: I just can’t afford it. Same with Verizon and my cell phone. Oh, and my mortgage company, too.

I mean, why should I? Sure, I may have signed contracts with all of them, and I may have already used their services, but the NJ Supreme Court [yesterday] just confirmed that contracts in New Jersey don’t mean squat:

Yo, like what’s up NJ Supreme Court, Chris Christie and Legislators?

Hey yo, NJ Supreme Court, your Pen/Ben ruling is overdue. Or as William Butler Yeats might have said more insightfully:

“Turning and turning in the widening gyre   

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; 

Surely some ruling is at hand.”

Completion of our state budget, solvency of the pension plan, union negotiations, and the welfare of state employees are at stake. Time is running out.  

More from the poet Yeats on our predicaments below the fold.

Gov. Christie’s pension battle: “Weird NJ”

Cross-posted with Marie Corfield. Promoted by Rosi.

Governor/Presidential Candidate Christie tours the country touting bipartisan pension and health benefits reform as the signature accomplishment of his administration. Part of that reform was his legal obligation to make regularly scheduled contributions in order to get the system off life support. (See here for CliffsNotes on the long history of the state’s underfunding of the system.)

Today, the Supreme Court of New Jersey will hear arguments in the ongoing pension battle between the state’s public employee unions and the Christie administration because the governor has decided he can’t come up with the full, legally obligated payments that he signed into law.