With badly needed judicial pay raises being left out of New York’s April 1st budget agreement, New York Chief Judge Judith Kaye threatened to bring suit against the legislative and executive branches for the raises. In harsh and emotional language she held a press conference and put out a statement on the issue.
New York’s trial court judges have starting salaries at $136,700, and now trail the starting salaries of first year associates at Big Law firms by tens of thousands of dollars.
An emotional Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye said yesterday the judiciary will not remain “docile in the face of the shabby treatment” it is receiving from officials of other governmental branches and is prepared to sue to get judges their first raises in more than eight years.
The chief judge said a suit would be the “very last resort,” but she said she may take that step if lawmakers and the governor do not authorize a pay increase between now and June.
“If there is no action on judicial salaries before the Legislature adjourns in June, the only remaining course of action available to us may well be to institute litigation with the full weight of the state judiciary behind it,” Chief Judge Kaye said yesterday at a rare news conference at her Albany courthouse. “That truly would be a sad day for us, for state government and for the people of New York.”
In the press release put out by the Chief Judge, she said that it was “disgraceful” that New York judges have not even had a cost of living increase in eight years, and that they must go “begging and pleading” for even such an adjustment.
When Eliot Spitzer was inaugurated as our new governor, I had written of my hope that this particular wrong would be righted. It is embarrassing for New York to continue on this path, and justice itself will suffer if we can not pay a decent salary to retain quality judges. While no one would expect head-to-head competition with the salaries a judge could earn in the private sector, if we can’t even keep pace with inflation, the bench will seriously deteriorate.