August 26, 2011
STATE BAR ASSOCIATION CALLS PROPOSED RAISES INADEQUATE AFTER A 12-YEAR FREEZE ON SALARIES OF STATE JUDGES
"During the past 12 years, the cost-of-living increased by 40 percent, eroding judicial salaries. Yet the commission voted to adjust judicial salaries by only 17 percent in 2012," said Doyle (Connors & Vilardo, LLP) of Buffalo. By 2014, the third year of the phase-in, judges salaries will have risen 27 percent over a 15-year period, far less than the projected inflation rate.
“A well-functioning Judiciary is critical to our system of government. It safeguards the rights of all New Yorkers while resolving both criminal and civil disputes in a fair and impartial manner,” Doyle said.
“Salary stagnation is more than a personal hardship for judges. It threatens to undermine our judiciary, making it harder to attract and retain talented judges,” Doyle said. “New York's judiciary has a well-regarded national and international reputation. We put that reputation at stake if we continue to devalue our judiciary by not adjusting judges' salaries."
Judges are leaving the bench voluntarily in record numbers, according
to a recent New York Times article. In 1999, 48 of the state’s
1,300 judges resigned. In 2011, 110 quit the bench.
“Judicial pay scales should not be so inadequate that they
encourage top judges to resign—or deter highly qualified attorneys
from seeking judgeships,” Doyle noted.
“Judges have waited long enough," he said. "We recognize the
state's fiscal problems and that many New Yorkers have been forced to
sacrifice. For judges, the sacrifice has been particularly long
and onerous. Since 1999, in good economic times and bad, judges'
salaries have not increased even by one cent."
In a report issued in July 2011, the State Bar Association called for raising salaries of state Supreme Court justices from $136,700 to $192,000, to reflect the increase in the cost-of-living since 1999.
In 1977, the state government became responsible for funding the newly created Unified Court System. Since then, judicial pay raises have been infrequent. "A pattern of long periods of salary stagnation [were] interrupted by occasional 'catch-up' increases," the Bar Association report says.
Thus, the report notes, "A judge serving since 1995 has received only one pay increase, in 1999. A judge serving since 1988--23 years ago--has received only two salary adjustments, in 1993 and 1999, while seeing inflation dramatically erode his or her salary."
The 77,000-member New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. It was founded in 1976. For further information, see www.nysba.org/newscenter.