| Communications Office:
David Bookstaver, Director
Kali Holloway, Deputy Director
Date: Dec. 3, 2007
Court Leaders Submit Budget Request Containing Funding for Judicial Pay Increase, Focusing Attention on Judicial Compensation Inequity
ALBANY, NY – Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye today announced that the Court of Appeals has approved, and she has certified, the Judiciary's fiscal year 2008-09 budget request, which includes a salary increase for New York’s judges. Chief Administrative Judge Ann Pfau formally submits to the Governor and the Legislature the General Fund budget request of $2.27 billion, which includes $143 million to fund an increase in judicial compensation retroactive to April 1, 2005. Inclusion of funding for judicial raises in the Judiciary’s budget request places the salary crisis front and center and reflects the urgent need for judicial salary reform:
· As of January 2008, New York judges will be in a record tenth year of a pay freeze.
· Of the 50 states, New York has gone the longest without a judicial pay increase. Over the past two years, judges in 45 states have received pay increases, while New York judges’ pay remains frozen.
· As a result, New York now ranks second-to-last nationwide when judicial salaries are adjusted for statewide cost of living.
· Since the last judicial pay increase in 1999, the cost of living has increased by more than 30 percent.
· A judge serving since 1995 has received only one pay increase in nearly 13 years (in 1999), while a judge serving since 1988 has received just two pay increases in almost 20 years (1993 and 1999).
The court system’s budget proposal would increase the salary level for justices of the State Supreme Court, New York’s highest trial court, from $136,700 to $165,200, restoring the traditional parity with salaries of Federal District Court judges. The salaries of other state judges would be increased proportionally. The Legislature and the Governor are being asked to approve the budget request as submitted, including the earmarked funding for salary increases, and to enact such increases into law.
“As we near the decade mark since the last pay raise for New York judges, I am deeply troubled by the very real consequences our courts face should the judicial salary crisis continue,” said Chief Judge Kaye. “A court system that does not offer its judges even annual cost of living increases to keep pace with the reality of inflation cannot possibly hope to entice the brightest minds to the bench. Ultimately, should the quality of our Judiciary suffer, so too will the quality of justice dispensed to the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who rely on our courts each year. The Legislature must act now to preserve the integrity and excellence of the State Judiciary by giving our judges the pay raises they both need and deserve.”
Judge Pfau said, “Even as they have watched their caseloads rise sharply, New York State’s judges have seen their pay steadily decline – falling behind that of their colleagues around the country, and the cost of living here at home. It is patently unfair and unreasonable to expect our hard working judges to perform the critically important jobs they do without fair and adequate compensation. We cannot overemphasize the importance of this issue, and therefore we have once again included funds for judicial salary increases in our budget request. This budget proposal is a reflection of our firm commitment to obtain the now long overdue cost-of-living adjustment owed to New York’s judges, and to establish a nonpartisan commission to determine judicial compensation.”
In addition to providing for the judicial salary adjustments, the budget request provides funds for the ongoing effort to modernize and upgrade the 2,300 Town and Village Courts in the state; enhancement of the Judiciary’s public safety programs, including security services and emergency preparedness; and implementation of Family Justice initiatives aimed at aiding families in crisis. The entire budget request, including the proposed salary increase, was approved by the New York Court of Appeals as required by the state Constitution.