Panel urges pay raises for judges

LANSING (AP) — A bipartisan commission has recommended that Michigan judges get a three percent increase in 2013 and a similar raise in 2014 after a decade of frozen salaries.

In a report released Monday, the State Officers Compensation Commission suggested that salaries for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state and lawmakers remain the same over the two-year period.

All saw 10 percent salary cuts at the beginning of 2011.

If the state House and Senate approve the commission’s recommendations, state Supreme Court justices’ salaries would rise to $169,548 in 2013 and $174,634 in 2013.

The raise also would increase other judges’ pay because lower court pay is based on a percentage of what justices earn.

In response to the suggested salaries, the Michigan Supreme Court  issued the following statement that is supported by the Michigan Judges Association, the Michigan Probate Judges Association, the Michigan District Court Judges Association, and the Michigan Judicial Conference:

“The judges of Michigan appreciate that the State Officers Compensation Commission has recognized that a freeze on judicial compensation for over a decade is not good public policy. 

Our priority continues to be to make the justice system right-sized, smarter, more user-friendly and more accountable. We appreciate the recommendation for an increase in compensation.  Given the continued budgetary situation of the state, however, we would understand if the legislature chose not to increase judicial salaries at this time.  We are confident that as Michigan’s recovery progresses, the issue will be revisited.”

After both announcements Monday, the State Bar of Michigan issued the following:

“The State Bar of Michigan commends the judges of Michigan for putting the state’s budget situation ahead of their own personal interests by urging the Legislature not to adopt the State Officers Compensation Commission’s recommendation for increases in judicial salaries at this time.”

The SBM statement noted that judges “have not had a pay increase since 2002 and like other public employees and officials in Michigan are dealing with decreasing benefits.”

“While the SOCC recommendation is more than justified,” the statement continued, “the judges have recognized that the more urgent need is to make sure that the court system can function in this changing economy, serving the public more efficiently while protecting access to justice.  In the long run, the court system will be undermined if judicial pay is allowed to stagnate indefinitely.  This is not the right time to fix that problem.”
 

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