Pension Forfeiture and the Eighth Amendment (Part 2)

by | Jun 15, 2020 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

The Appellate panel continued in relevant part: Further, N.J.S.A. 43:1-3.1, like all statutes, is presumed constitutional. See Whirlpool Props. v. Dir., Div. of Taxation (2011). The judiciary has always exercised its power to invalidate a legislative act with restraint and “a deep awareness that the challenged enactment represents the considered action of a body composed of popularly elected representatives.” N.J. Sports & Exposition Auth. v. McCrane (1972). A legislative act will only be declared void if “its repugnancy to the Constitution is clear beyond a reasonable doubt.” Harvey v. Bd. of Chosen Freeholders (1959).

Moreover, N.J.S.A. 43:1-3.1 is not unprecedented in its imposition of pension forfeiture as a penalty for misconduct as “the policy requiring forfeiture of pension rights on account of dishonorable service has been part of our law for over half a century.” Indeed, “all public pension statutes in this State carry an implicit condition precedent of honorable service and operate as a penalty or punishment for wrongful conduct.” Ibid. As noted, pension forfeiture serves two significant government objectives: “punishment of the individual and deterrence, both as to the offending individual and other employees.” In serving these dual purposes of punishment and deterrence, N.J.S.A. 43:1-3.1 operates to protect the public from the serious problem of government corruption.

Turning to the gravity of defendant’s offense, we acknowledge that he pled guilty to a single count of violating 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a) after accepting a $300 bribe and that his offense was unrelated to other illegal activities. We note, however, that the maximum punishment authorized for a single offense under 18 U.S.C. § 1951 is a fine or imprisonment of up to twenty years, or both.

The citation to the United States Code indicates that the defendant’s criminal conviction was the result of a federal prosecution. The pension case originated in Jersey City but likely ended up in Mercer County because it involved allegations against more than a dozen city employees and thereby created a conflict of interest in Hudson County.