Articles Posted in Suffolk County

Published on:

The plaintiffs, District Court Judges of the Suffolk County District Court, seek among other things, a judgment declaring the perpetuation of an unfavorable salary disparity between the plaintiffs and the Judges of the only other District Court in the State, that of adjoining Nassau County, violative of the equal protection provisions of our Federal and State Constitutions. As a supplementary item of relief plaintiffs also sought a judgment covering the resulting unconstitutional salary differential commencing with April 1, 1977, the date the Judges became employees of the State’s unified court system. 2 Named as defendant were the State, its Comptroller, the Chief Administrator of the Courts (both in this capacity and as the representative of the Administrative Board of the Judicial Conference) and the County of Suffolk.

The parties having stipulated that the facts were not in dispute, on a motion for summary judgment Supreme Court, Westchester County, sitting at Special Term, found merit in the constitutional claim and, in a judgment dated July 29, 1980, though it dismissed the complaint against the county, declared that the plaintiffs’ right to equal protection will have been violated unless the other defendants (hereinafter “the State”) took “all appropriate steps to end the salary disparity” prior to October 1, 1980. On cross appeals to the Appellate Division, Second Department, the State directed its attention to the declaration on constitutionality of the salary differential, while the plaintiffs addressed only the correctness of so much of the judgment as allowed the disparity to continue until October 1, 1980. The Appellate Division, 82 A.D.2d 441, 442 N.Y.S.2d 80, applying the rational basis test, as had the Supreme Court, and agreeing that the case presented a potential constitutional violation, modified the judgment by substituting April 1, 1982 for October 1, 1980 as the target date for elimination of the disparity and otherwise affirmed.

On cross appeals to this court, the State challenges the now modified declaration on constitutionality, while the plaintiff Judges confine themselves to “the issue of the appropriate starting date on which plaintiffs were entitled to receive parity with the Judges of the District Court of Nassau County”. For the reasons which follow, we find that the wage disparity represents an unconstitutional impairment of the plaintiffs’ right to equal protection of the laws and that, by way of ancillary relief, the plaintiffs are entitled to judgment for the differentials which were their due since October 1, 1978.

Contact Information