Communications Office:
David Bookstaver, Director
Kali Holloway, Assistant Director
(212) 428-2500

Date: May 29, 2007

Seal of the Unified Court System
www.nycourts.gov/press

National Center for State Courts Study Determines New York State Judicial Pay Rate Among Lowest in the Nation

Report Finds New York Judicial Salary Crisis a Warning to State Judiciaries Nationally

ALBANY, NY – The National Center for State Courts today released its study of the impact of New York State’s judicial pay crisis, now entering its ninth year – the longest judicial salary freeze of any state in the country. The landmark report concludes that the state’s judges are severely underpaid when compared to judges throughout the country, as well as other professionals in significant public positions:

  • Judicial salaries in New York rank 48th in the nation when adjusted for the state’s high cost of living.
  • Judges earn substantially less than many public sector employees, thousands of public school administrators, and both public and private sector attorneys – including new law school graduates hired at New York’s largest law firms.
  • Current judicial pay levels are inadequate and unlikely to continue to attract and retain the most qualified lawyers to the State Judiciary.

The report also calls for reform of the process by which judicial salaries in New York are now set, calling New York’s reliance on political processes “a warning to state judiciaries everywhere.” The study recommends that criteria for determining judicial compensation rest on four key principles – equity, regularity, objectivity and separation from politics – and advocates adoption of a commission-based system to set salaries.

In accepting the Center’s report, Chief Judge Kaye said, “I want to thank Mary McQueen and the National Center for State Courts for undertaking this unprecedented study. Such a comprehensive look at the history and current state of judicial pay in New York within the national context offers the most compelling evidence to date of the dire need for judicial raises, and for a new system – one without ties to politics – for establishing judicial pay. After careful examination of our current system, and its persistent failure to provide judges with fair and competitive compensation, the National Center strongly supports our proposal to create a permanent nonpartisan commission to regularly review and adjust judicial pay. The depth of the Center’s study of New York’s judicial pay freeze and its recommendations for systematic reform offer an independent assessment of the gravity of the judicial pay crisis.”

Chief Administrative Judge Ann Pfau added, “It is unthinkable that anyone would be expected to endure nearly a decade without a raise. The National Center for State Courts study demonstrates that not only is this situation grossly unfair to judges and their families, but that it also threatens the very institution of the judiciary and undermines the public perception of the independence of the third branch of our government.”

Mary McQueen, President of the National Center for State Courts, commented, “Historically, New York has been a leader in judicial compensation, but now lags far behind other states. New York is also out of step with the increasing number of states that have in place systematic and objective processes for adjusting judicial salaries on a regular basis. The result is a judiciary that has received only two raises in nearly two decades. This long-standing failure of judicial salaries to keep pace with changing economic conditions poses a grave danger to the future of the state’s judiciary.”

The National Center for State Courts is an independent organization, founded in 1971, that provides a broad range of research, educational, technical and other types of support to state court systems. The Center has monitored judicial salary trends nationally for more than three decades. Information about the National Center can be found on its website at www.ncsconline.org. The full text of the Center’s report is available online at www.nycourts.gov/whatsnew

 

Web page updated: May 29, 2007