The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee voted in support of a bill that would increase the annual salaries of judges and other public officials last week, setting the stage to reignite the debate on judicial salary increases. S-1229 (Sweeney) proposes annual salary increases for the governor’s cabinet officers, members of the Board of Public Utilities and judges. The New Jersey State Bar Association supports the increase to judicial salaries to compensate for pay decreases due to increased contributions to benefits and the lack of cost of living increases over the past several years.
“It has been over a decade since the people our society entrusts to resolve disputes have seen a salary increase, all the while the cost of living has risen and judges have seen their compensation diminished through the passage of the New Jersey Judicial Salary and Benefits Amendment,” said the association in a statement circulated to the committee members in support of the bill.
For judges, the bill provides for an $8,000 increase in calendar year 2018 and for an increase thereafter for the next two years. It also proposes an automatic annual salary adjustment based on the change in the Consumer Price Index beginning in 2021.
“The judicial pay provisions of S-1229 will go a long way toward maintaining the excellence for which the New Jersey courts are known, and will bolster the state’s ability to attract high-quality legal scholars to the bench who have a rich diversity of professional and life experiences combined with a deep knowledge of the law,” said the association in its statement to the Legislature. “The measure will also bring New Jersey in line with several other states by providing automatic COLA increases to keep pace with inflation and thereby largely removing the question of judicial compensation from the sway of political influence.”
In 2016, the Legislature attempted to increase salaries in a bill bundled with an amendment to the state ethics laws that would have allowed then-Governor Chris Christie to profit from a book deal. The NJSBA sounded off in support of increases in judge’s salaries, but stayed silent on the other amendment. The new bill does not address the state ethics law. Rather, it provides for what the NJSBA has stated is a much-needed raise for judges.
There is no Assembly version of the bill at this time. The association continues to closely monitor the issue.
Save the Date: NJSBA’s Town Hall
The association will host its annual town hall continuing legal education program in Trenton on March 22. Stay tuned for further details on the program, which will feature prominent legislators and lobbyists. The program is an opportunity for members to earn continuing legal education credits and learn more about how the legislative process works, straight from the mouths of elected officials and government insiders who know the process best.
Check njsba.com for details and registration information. Details will be posted soon.
This is a status report provided by the New Jersey State Bar Association on recently passed and pending legislation, regulations, gubernatorial nominations and/or appointments of interest to lawyers, as well as the involvement of the NJSBA as amicus in appellate court matters. To learn more, visit njsba.com.