NJEA and other public employee unions in New Jersey have refiled in state court a lawsuit challenging the provisions of Chapter 78, which NJEA contends violated the rights of its members. The pension law went into effect last year.
On March 6, the U.S. District Court in New Jersey issued an opinion dismissing the original federal lawsuit against the state.
In her opinion, Judge Anne E. Thompson ruled that the federal court did not have jurisdiction in the case, but did not make any rulings on the merits of the suit.
“NJEA’s attorneys strongly disagree with this ruling, but we emphasize that the decision was limited only to the jurisdictional question of whether this suit can proceed in federal court,” said NJEA President Barbara Keshishian.
Chapter 78, among other things, eliminated cost of living increases even for retirees who had already completed their decades of service to their. The law also imposed substantial increases on employees and retirees for health care and pensions.
NJEA, the other unions, and affected individuals claimed that the 2011 pension law violated federal and state constitutional rights, which led to the suit being filed in federal court.
Judge Thompson concluded that the federal court did not have jurisdiction because the 11th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution bars suits in federal courts against the state, or even its officers, if the remedy is a payment of money from the state for past violations of the law.
NJEA will keep members informed as the lawsuit makes its way through state courts.