Home>Local>Camden>Fifteen months after Senate confirmation, new judge won’t take office over pension issue

Former Acting Camden County Prosecutor Jill Mayer. (Photo: Parker McCay).

Fifteen months after Senate confirmation, new judge won’t take office over pension issue

Jill Mayer wants her state pension plus her judicial salary, joins Parker McCay in the meantime

By David Wildstein, April 11 2023 4:44 pm

Only in New Jersey can a career prosecutor get herself appointed to a Superior Court judgeship and then hold out for more money.

Jill S. Mayer was unanimously confirmed by the Senate in January 2022, but fifteen months later, she has still not taken the oath of office.  That’s because she’s still looking for a way to take her $127,000 annual pension that came from nearly 27 years in the attorney general’s office while also receiving a $175,000-per-year judicial salary.

The state Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS) has already turned Mayer down three times, telling her she can’t collect a government pension and a judicial salary simultaneously.  She has hired an influential lawyer, William Tambussi, to appeal that decision.

Mayer knew about the pension issue even before her Senate confirmation process but chose to go ahead with it anyways.  When the governor’s office and Senate leadership pushed her nomination through the Senate, they were unaware that they were confirming someone who had no immediate intention of becoming a judge.

In the meantime, the 54-year-old Mayer has joined a politically powerful South Jersey law firm, Parker McCay, while squatting on a judgeship the state judiciary no longer considers to be vacant.

There is no apparent requirement as to how long Mayer can take before she takes her seat on the Superior Court, and the clock on her initial seven-year term begins with her oath of office, the New Jersey Globe has confirmed.

“The nomination will not expire because she was confirmed,” a spokesperson for the Administrative Office of the Courts said.

That means Mayer could work at Parker McCay for years and then suddenly show up at the Camden County courthouse to get sworn in — unless the courts determine that she has somehow abandoned her position.

What appears clear is that Mayer knew she had a pension issue before she appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee on January 6, 2022, but didn’t disclose that to the committee.

In 2021, the state Division of Pensions told Mayer that she would be unable to receive her state pension if she accepted a position as a Superior Court Judge.  She appeared before the PERS board on December 7, 2021, to appeal the decision, but was unsuccessful.

Mayer filed for retirement in December 2021.  With a salary bump to $197,000 during more than two years as acting Camden County Prosecutor, Mayer qualified for an annual pension of roughly $10,600 per month.

Last month, Mayer appeared before the PERS board of trustees to challenge a previous decision to uphold the division’s determination.

The pension board reconsidered and affirmed their previous decision and denied her application for a hearing before an administrative law judge.  Mayer is awaiting a final written decision; her next step could be to file a lawsuit.

Two sources familiar with Mayer’s situation told the New Jersey Globe that the Superior Court Judge-designate, through an intermediary, had sought special legislation that would allow her to collect her pension and her judge’s salary, but she was rebuffed.

Mayer was not seeking a second pension and instead would have opted out of the judiciary’s pension system.

At the time Gov. Phil Murphy and Camden County senators agreed to Mayer for a judgeship, the Senate President was Steve Sweeney, and special legislation to clean up pension problems was more commonplace.  But Sweeney lost re-election in 2021, leaving Mayer alone.

A Parker McCay press release issued last week said that Mayer would be “supporting numerous departments throughout the firm as she builds out a comprehensive Corporate and Commercial Compliance practice.”  The release also touts that “Jill was nominated and confirmed to be a New Jersey Superior Court judge.”

Reached at her new law office, Mayer declined to answer questions and referred all inquiries about her judicial career to her spokesperson, Carolyn Rutsky, Parker McCay’s chief operating officer.

Mayer had been slated for a judgeship since 2021 when the governor’s office and South Jersey Democrats agreed on Grace McAulay as the new Camden County Prosecutor.

Murphy filed his intent to nominate Mayer to replace retired Judge George Leone on December 13, 2021.  She was fast-tracked in the Senate, with her nomination received on January 4, 2022, a Judiciary Committee vote on January 6, and a confirmation by the full Senate on January 10.

The delay in Mayer’s ascendancy to the bench comes at a time when the New Jersey courts are experiencing a significant shortage of judges and a backlog of cases.

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