The state of New York Governor David A. Paterson signed the new legislation known as A42010/S68010 that aims to improve the pay and non-salary benefits of about 1,300 state judges. The legislation primarily requires evaluating and making necessary recommendations on the adequacy of the judges’ pay and non-salary benefits every fourth year by a seven-member commission. The panel’s recommendation will take effect automatically once made, if the Legislature and the governor do not enact a statute to modify or reject the findings. The first raises will be paid starting April 1, 2012. The last raise was recorded in 1999. The first pay commission is set to convene on April 1, 2011 and will be given 150 days to accomplish its tasks. A new panel will then be created every fourth year after that.
Gov. Paterson explained during the signing ceremony that the state judges deserve this recognition. “The judges of this state will get [the pay] they deserve, which is important to creating the highest standard of jurisprudence in this nation.” Paterson said, when asked if it is appropriate to expect increases despite the present economic downturn and the 9.3 billion budget gap of the state, “There were other factors in the statute that would support increases such as the rate of inflation since judicial pay was last increased and the instruction to look at the pay of federal judges.”
Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman expressed his excitement over the governor’s decision. He said that even though the new legislation is not mandating to raise the judges’ pay, he is more than happy because at least, the salary and overall benefits of state judges will now be in line with the cost-of-living adjustments in each of the next three years. He described it as “A long overdue salute” to the state’s judges, who for many years without a pay increase, have labored day in and day out meeting their constitutional responsibilities.”