Justice Albin dissented in relevant part: The Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution prohibits a state from imposing an excessive fine on a person convicted of a crime. In this case, the complete forfeiture of defendant Bennie Anderson’s pension for an isolated crime for which he received a probationary sentence and modest fine by a federal court violates the Excessive Fines Clause. In my view, the majority has denied Anderson the protections afforded by the Federal Constitution by failing to call a fine by its true name and by characterizing state law in a way that seemingly evades federal review. I therefore respectfully dissent.
Bennie Anderson, a Vietnam War veteran, served in various municipal positions in Jersey City for thirty-eight and a half years, retiring in March 2017 at the age of fifty-nine with an early-service-retirement pension of $60,173.67 per year. Based on the estimate that Anderson would live to the age of eighty-three, his pension at retirement was worth $1,462,220.18.
In my view, a state court’s decision cannot evade Eighth Amendment review by calling a fine imposed as punishment by some other name. Anderson had a property interest in his pension, and the State exacted a forfeiture of the entirety of that pension in violation of the Excessive Fines Clause. I therefore respectfully dissent.
The trial and appellate prosecutors would likely view the facts of the underlying case differently than just a $300 bribe. Given the 39 1/2 years for which the defendant was employed as a public servant, they probably suspect that the $300 bribe at issue was just the tip of the iceberg as far as bribes that he took. They would never say that directly though, since the defendant is required to be presumed innocent of any uncharged and unproven offenses. Chief Justice Rabner’s decision to not participate in this decision was likely due to a conflict of interest with one of the parties to the case.