Judges Living on the Brink of Poverty
Get Out Your Hankie. It is Being Reported That
Certain Judges Are Surviving on the Brink of Poverty.
New York’s Lagging Judicial Pay
Published: July 11, 2011
Across the country, judicial salaries are falling woefully behind what is needed to sustain a high-quality justice system. The problem is acute in New York State, where judges have gone without a raise for a dozen years.
Thanks to this parsimony, judicial salaries in New York, once the highest in the nation, are ranked 46th when adjusted for the cost of living, according to the National Center for State Courts. Turnover on the bench has increased, as William Glaberson of The Times reported last week. Nearly one in 10 judges are leaving annually. That attrition rate is more than double what it was 11 years ago.
While the $136,700 salary for New York trial court judges may not seem low, it lags behind the pay of federal judges and many government lawyers. Some law clerks in New York, who received regular raises while judicial pay was frozen, earn more than the judges they serve. Apart from the unfairness to the state’s 1,300 judges, inadequate pay deters talented lawyers from seeking judicial office.
A special judicial pay commission created by the Legislature is expected to report by September on its recommended pay levels for judges for the next four years. Those recommendations will go into effect beginning next April unless the Legislature and the governor act to modify or reject them. A sensible approach would be to bring the salaries up to federal judicial pay levels; future cost-of-living adjustments should also be on the table.
Even in these hard financial times, New York judges deserve, and the state can afford, a pay increase that restores their lost purchasing power and shows that their service is valued.