Maryland’s Senate has approved a $20,000 pay raise for state judges, to be phased in over four years. The salary bump was $15,000/year less than the Judicial Compensation Commission had recommended. The legislation will also boost the pensions of retired judges in the state.
The Association of Judges in Ireland, the representative body for that country’s judges, has requested that the government restore judicial salaries to pre-financial crisis levels. New judicial appointees currently earn less than judges on the same court who were appointed before 2011.
In a questionable twist, however, the Association has argued that maintaining the lower salaries for new judges could constitute “indirect gender discrimination” because recent appointees include more women than before.
Come on. It’s hard to imagine why the Association would take such a specious position, especially with much more plausible arguments available. Ireland may not constitutionally protect judicial salaries, but surely the better case is that external control over judges’ pay wreaks havoc on judicial independence. Moreover, as the Association itself pointed out, similar discrepancies in teacher and health care worker pay were being addressed, leaving judges on the outside looking in.
Judges are naturally aware that their complaints about salary and benefits can sound elitist, especially when the even a “low” salary is well into six figures. But trying to invoke the specter of discrimination here is wildly counterproductive.
Roy Moore, the disgraced judge turned disgraceful Senate candidate, received good news recently when the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA) Board approved his $135,000 annual pension, representing 75% of his annual salary before he was suspended from his duties as Alabama Chief Justice in September 2016. The RSA Board indicated that it has no legal authority to reject or change a judge’s pension. Moore qualified for the pension under state law due to his previous years of service and age at the time he was suspended.
Meanwhile in Washington, Senator Charles Grassley recalled ex-judge Thomas Porteous’s efforts to fleece taxpayers with his own retirement pension. Porteous was impeached and removed from office in 2010 for taking bribes and engaging in a variety of corrupt acts. Shortly before he was impeached, Porteous tried to claim disability retirement in order to secure a lifetime annual salary of nearly $175,000.
No one could be blamed for wanting to deny retirement payments to judges whose conduct in office was reprehensible, as was the case (in different ways) for Moore and Porteous. The counterargument is that reprehensible conduct cannot be clearly defined, and the ability to remove benefits will become a weapon against judicial independence. Where and how should we draw the line?
From Scottish Legal News:
Less than a month after a warning by Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, that the English legal system was facing a ‘ticking time bomb’ in its failure to recruit judges, Scottish Legal News can reveal that Scotland too is facing such a crisis with top quality candidates spurning elevation to the bench.
Our enquiries among leading QCs found that most had no appetite to become judges citing hostile media coverage, lack of respect for the judiciary, relatively modest pay and pension packages, a backlog of distressing child sex abuse cases and concerns over judicial independence as well as the isolation and strenuous work load.
When incentives to enter a profession drop, the number of people seeking that profession drop as well.
The Unified Courts of Guam have made their budget request for 2018, which includes line items for adding a new Superior Court judge. The court system estimates that the cost of adding a new judge (which includes salary, staff, courtroom facilities, and supplies) will be $397,537.
The proposed judicial budget would make up a little over 5 percent of Guam’s overall governmental budget for 2018.
The Times of London reports that the United Kingdom’s Senior Salaries Review Body (SSRB) will review the pay and working conditions for the country’s judges, in light of ongoing difficulties in recruiting qualified judicial candidates. The Times explains:
A judicial attitudes survey has found low morale among existing judges because of the erosion of their pay levels, and in particular their pension, increased administrative workload and poor working conditions.
The review, announced yesterday, will look at three areas: the judicial salary structure and whether this can be simplified; the way in which judicial leadership should be rewarded and incentivised, and judicial recruitment, retention and motivation.
The study findings are expected to be released in June 2018.
Late last week, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts released the annual financial disclosure reports for the Justices of the Supreme Court. It turns out that the members of the Court are wealthy, with most being millionaires several times over. This is unsurprising. Indeed, it would have been shocking if the Justices — all of whom are Ivy League graduates who enjoyed successful careers before joining the Court, and many of whom are in the late stages of their working life — had not amassed considerable wealth. Yet the news spurred a wide range of stories in the mainstream media and in the blogosphere.
Yes, they’re rich. Why do we care?