Judicial Salary Increase: Let’s Just Do It Already

The issue of judicial compensation still threatens to be a casualty of the transportation financing legislation that is the subject of a recent dispute among Governor Patrick, the House, and Senate.  A compromise on the transportation bill is essential because it is needed to fund major portions of the Fiscal Year 2014 budget.  Legislative leadership is confident that the transportation financing legislation they’ve put together includes the right blend of taxes and reforms to make a lasting impact on the state’s transportation system.  Governor Patrick disagrees.

Since last week’s Issue Spot post, Governor Patrick signed the Fiscal Year 2014 budget.  At the same time, Governor Patrick returned it to the legislature with vetoes and amendments.  Included in those amendments was a change to the judicial salary increase.  The legislature’s proposal, which was included in the budget sent to Governor Patrick, would phase in the salary increase.  The governor’s amendment would provide the entire salary increase in one lump sum.

We’ve been waiting far too long for a salary increase for our state court judges.  We don’t need to be reminded that the judiciary is not a state agency.  We don’t need to recapitulate the many tough decisions that this branch of government has made over the years that other branches have failed to make.   We don’t need to be reminded that their salary has remained unchanged since 2006.

Here are some facts that cannot be highlighted too often:

  • A state court judge’s salary is simply inadequate
  • It’s time to get the salary increase done

Responding to the recent amendment from the governor, detractors have said that the salary increase will cause an overwhelming number of judges to immediately retire.  This would give the governor power to fill even more judicial vacancies.

Right now the debate isn’t even about our ability to recruit and retain judges.  Those discussions have already happened.  The bottom line is they need a raise.  They deserve a raise.  The Boston Bar Association and its more than 10,000 members support a judicial pay raise.  It’s time to get it done.

- Kathleen Joyce
Director of Government Relations
Boston Bar Association
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