The Supreme Court Grants Direct Certification in Burgos v. New Jersey, the Public Employee Pension Case

Burgos v. New Jersey is a case that asserts that the State’s failure to make the full amortization payment required by statute as part of the State’s contribution to the pension system for fiscal year 2015 violates the constitutional rights of state employees.  The State asserted that a revenue shortfall led to and justified the decision not to make the full payment. 

On February 23, 2015, the Law Division denied the State’s motion to dismiss the Complaint and granted plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment on their claim of impairnment of contract.  The Law Division’s opinion is available here.  The Law Division’s Order, which can be found here, required the Governor and the Legislature to satisfy the constitutional obligation. 

The State moved for leave to appeal to the Appellate Division and, thereafter, on March 31, 2015, asked the Supreme Court to grant direct certification of the appeal, thus bypassing the Appellate Division.  The State also filed certain related motions.  Plaintiffs consented to those applications.

Today, the Supreme Court granted the State’s motion for direct certification, as well as the State’s other motions.  The Court’s Order is available here.  The State’s brief (overlength, with the consent of plaintiffs) has already been filed, and the Court set April 20 as the date by which plaintiffs are to file their opposition brief, which is not to exceed 100 pages.  The State’s reply, which may not be longer than 25 pages, is due on April 24.  The Court’s Order set oral argument for May 6.

This is another constitutional clash involving public pensions.  Whatever the result, it will be a landmark ruling.  The schedule that the Court has set, given the importance of the issues, foreshadows a decision not very long after the May 6 oral argument date.