North Dakota’s judiciary is seeking a 35% pay raise, phased in over two years. The state currently ranks 40th in judicial salary.
Many of the arguments are familiar: judges are already paid lower than many other state employees, they do not receive ordinary and consistent pay increases, and judicial work is difficult and sometimes isolating or dangerous. But proponents of the pay hike are advancing another, less common, argument: that a pay raise is needed to attract private litigators to the judiciary. Most applicants for judicial positions are prosecutors and criminal defense lawyers, for whom a judgeship represents a bump in salary as well as prestige. For successful civil litigators, by contrast, moving to the judiciary frequently involves a substantial pay cut, making the job less attractive.
An experientially diverse judiciary is essential for the administration of justice. And while raising salaries may not be enought to assure a proper experiential balance, it is indeed a meaningful consideration.