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In re 1982 County of Hudson Judicial Budget Impasse

October 29, 1982

IN THE MATTER OF THE 1982 COUNTY OF HUDSON JUDICIAL BUDGET IMPASSE


For affirmance as modified -- Chief Justice Wilentz and Clifford, Schreiber, Handler, Pollock and O'Hern. For reversal -- None.

DECISION AND ORDER

These are proceedings under Rule 1:33-5. They originated with the submission to the Hudson County Board of Freeholders by the Hudson County Assignment Judge of a proposed budget for 1982 for the operation of the courts in Hudson County.

That budget included provisions for salary increases for judiciary personnel. Following negotiations, the County adopted a final budget that did not include all of the items requested by the Assignment Judge for the judiciary. The Assignment Judge then entered a Recommended Disposition/Order, dated June 18, 1982, pursuant to Rule 1:33-5(a). Following two amendments, a final Recommended Disposition-Amended Order was entered on July 21, 1982. That order set forth salary increases for personnel and the processing of documents determined to be necessary to meet court costs and employment needs.

Pursuant to Rule 1:33-5(a) the County filed a Notice of Petition for Review with the Supreme Court. The Assignment Judge subsequently filed a Response to Notice of Petition as required by Rule 1:33-5(c). By order dated August 17, 1982, the Court granted the petition and designated a three-member panel consisting of Judge Charles S. Joelson, Judge Lawrence S. Carton, Jr. (retired), and Mr. Walter Wechsler, in accordance with Rule 1:33-5(d). The matter proceeded to hearing on an accelerated basis without any prehearing discovery, and sessions were conducted on August 23, 24 and 27, 1982. Each party presented the testimony of witnesses as well as documentary

exhibits. The panel submitted its report under date of September 13, 1982. Exceptions were taken by the County of Hudson and the Assignment Judge of Hudson County to the panel report, which had modified recommended increases in salaries of judicial personnel in the County of Hudson as proposed by the Assignment Judge. Each of the parties seeks further modifications of the proposed judicial salary order. We have examined the record of the hearings conducted by the panel, including exhibits introduced in evidence, the findings and conclusions of the panel set forth in the panel report and the exceptions filed by the parties. Based upon this review, we modify the report with respect to the salaries to be paid the Chief Probation Officer and Assistant Chief Probation Officer and, as modified, we affirm the panel report and the salaries proposed for each of the judiciary employees as set forth therein.

The panel proceeding was conducted under and is governed by Rule 1:33-5. This rule provides an administrative scheme for the resolution of "impasses" or disputes between the judiciary and counties concerning the annual budget for the judiciary. The operative standard for resolving such impasses is contained in Rule 1:33-5(e):

When the dispute involves an appropriation, neither party shall have the burden of proof, the test being whether the appropriation is reasonably necessary.

The hearing on this matter consumed three days. We are satisfied that both during the hearing and in making its recommendations in this matter, the panel consistently applied the test of whether the appropriation for particular salaries for individual judiciary employees was reasonably necessary for the efficient operation of the court system.

The Attorney General, on behalf of the Assignment Judge, argues initially by way of exception to the panel report that there was no genuine "impasse" necessitating resolution by a Court-appointed panel under Rule 1:33-5 because the total funds appropriated by the County for the judicial budget were sufficient to accommodate the salary increases that had been

recommended by the Assignment Judge. Our review of the record, however, indicates that there was a dispute as to whether appropriated funds were sufficient. Nevertheless, we need not address this contention of the Attorney General. The panel itself declined to make such a determination, except to note that any asserted budgetary shortfall was small. The panel proceeded to apply the "reasonably necessary" standard of Rule 1:33-5(e) to each of the controverted salary proposals. Since these particular items were disputed and the parties were at an impasse with respect to their resolution, and a challenge to the sufficiency of the appropriation was made at the time the final budget was approved, the adjudicatory machinery of the budget-impasse rule was properly invoked.

The record does support the panel's recommendations, granting all or part of the increases sought by the Assignment Judge. In this matter the Assignment Judge proposed salary increases of varying amounts for twenty-four court employees appointed pursuant to Rule 1:33-3(b), the Chief Probation Officer and Assistant Chief Probation Officer, as well as sixteen judicial secretaries. The panel recommended some increase in salary for all of the personnel and, with the ...


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