You may wonder why we, as trial lawyers who have no intention of ever becoming a judge, care about a pay raise for N.Y. judges? There are several good reasons:
(1) Good judges benefit EVERYONE. Although everyone hopes that they will never have to enter a courtroom, if you do, the quality of the judge who hears your case will be very important to you and your case.
(2) We all know that “You get what you pay for”. We are not going to get good people serving as judges if they have to take a huge pay cut to take the job.
(3) Fair is fair. N.Y. judges have not received ANY pay raise in eight years! That means not even a cost-of-living increase. That’s just not fair. Love or hate judges, I think everyone would agree that it’s not fair that someone’s real wages would effectively decline year after year.
I know that most hard working folks feel that judges are already overpaid and that judges have a lot of nerve to complain about any annual salary in excess of $150,000 but it’s important to remember that it is a long, difficult and expensive road to becoming a judge: 4 years of college, 3 years of law school, monstrous student loans, years of experience working as a lawyer to distinguish yourself…..
Even more importantly, we want to attract good people to the Bench and you sure aren’t going to do that if that person can make two times (or more) working in private practice.
Finally, like lawyer-bashing, I know it’s popular to judge-bash but I can tell you that in my 21+ years of appearing in N.Y. trial courts in Upstate New York in our area (Chemung, Steuben, Schuyler, Tioga, Broome, Tompkins counties) we are very lucky to have judges who are hard-working, dedicated and devoted. So if, God-forbid, you end up in court for some reason, you will be very concerned that you have a good judge….
Thanks for reading, Jim Reed
PS The Elmira Star-Gazette newspaper had a good editorial on this issue if you are interested in reading more on this issue. You will see some heated Comments to that editorial by folks who disagree with me that our judges deserve a pay raise. I love the fact that we live in a country where we can so publicly disagree on important issues and that we have the freedom to actively debate our opinions….