Judicial Pay Increase Tops State of the Judiciary Agenda
top priority during this legislative session must be a judicial pay increase. Today, I announce that the judiciary is submitting a proposal to establish a permanent mechanism for the regular salary review of officials in all three branches of government."'
THE PRESSING NEED FOR A JUDICIAL SALARY increase was the lead item in Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye's 13th State of the Judiciary address Feb. 6. In the past seven years, every state but New York has raised judicial salaries to address inflation, and New York judges have had only two increases in the past 18 years.
"'New York's system for determining compensation for its public officials needs reform,"' said Judge Kaye."'Our absolute
Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye receives applause at
State of the Judiciary.
PHOTO: COLLEEN BRESCIA
Under the proposal, as in last year's attempt to
secure a judicial pay increase, judges would receive
an immediate increase, including an adjustment to
re-establish parity for Supreme Court justices with
federal District Court judges, retroactive to April 1,
2005. What's new about this year's legislative proposal,
however, is that it provides a mechanism for
annual cost of living adjustments (COLAs) for all
three branches of government beginning April 1,
2007. That mechanism would be a 13-member
temporary commission, established every four
years and dissolved upon issuance of its report,
whose sole task would be to study relevant economic
data and determine annual COLAs for
judges, legislators and senior
executive branch officials for
a four-year period. The
COLAs would take effect
April 1 of each year barring
legislative action to modify or
suspend them. Members of
the Quadrennial Commission
on Executive, Legislative and Judicial Compensation
would be appointed by the governor,
legislative leaders and the chief judge; most would
be members of the general public. Adoption of
such a proposal would promote public confidence
in the process — and its results — as well as enable
highly qualified candidates to seek and remain in
public sector positions.
Reviewing the accomplishments of the past year
and previewing this year's initiatives, Judge Kaye
proclaimed New York's judiciary in good standing.
She said she would commit the remaining year of
her 14-year term to various pursuits, including judicial
selection reform, increased access to justice, a
new court-restructuring approach and public confidence
in the courts.
The goals of solid performance and sound
innovation have been the guideposts
of the past 13 years, and they will continue
to motivate us in the year ahead.
On the subject of judicial selection
reform, Judge Kaye announced
the release of the latest Feerick
Commission report, which focuses
on the nominating convention
process for state Supreme Court justices.
She also announced recent
Court of Appeals approval of rules
establishing independent judicial
qualification commissions in each
judicial district, based on earlier
Feerick report recommendations.
These commissions will evaluate
qualifications of candidates for all
elective judicial office and issue
public findings. The court approved
other rules relating to judicial campaign
conduct (see related story).
Among other reports released
were the long-awaited report from
the Matrimonial Commission,
which calls for substantial changes
— administrative and statutory — in how divorcerelated
matters are handled in the courts (see story,
p. 3), and the report of the Commission to
Examine Solo and Small Firm Practice, which
makes numerous recommendations to better meet
the needs of such practitioners (see story, p. 3). The
Chief Judge's remarks also touched on the interim
finding of the Commission on the Future of Indigent
Defense Services that the existing "'patchwork"'
approach to providing such services should be
replaced with a coherent statewide system. A final
report is due this spring (see story, p. 2).
Among many initiatives relating to children,
Judge Kaye announced a new Office of Family Services,
headed by former Second Department
Appellate Division Justice and Matrimonial Commission
chair Sondra Miller. The office will serve
as a think tank to develop best practices as well as
a source of scholarship and research. The Chief
Judge highlighted collaborative achievements with
governmental partners and Family Court stakeholders,
such as last year's permanency legislation
and efforts to improve foster care. She announced
the opening of an office for Court-Appointed Special
Advocates (CASA) within the courts' ADR unit,
along with the availability of court system grants,
to help expand CASA to more counties.
Judge Kaye gave special mention to two 10-year
successes — the Commercial Division, now in nine
locations, and the Center for Court Innovation, the
courts' independent research and development
arm, which develops and supports the state's problem-
As always, the Chief Judge's annual address
stressed the need to simplify the state's "'archaic"'
court structure. Noting that this year "'marks a full
century since Dean Roscoe Pound's historic speech
to the American Bar Association calling for states
to unify their trial courts for the sake of efficiency
and substantive justice,"' Judge Kaye observed that
New York still has a complicated, overlapping system
of 11 trial courts, notwithstanding operational
measures taken to simplify the system. Taking a
fresh approach, the Chief Judge announced she
will form a Special Commission on the Future of
the New York State Courts, charged with proposing
a streamlined system.
"'The goals of solid performance and sound
innovation have been the guideposts of the past 13
years, and they will continue to motivate us in the
year ahead,"' said Judge Kaye.
The full text of the address and the reports
mentioned in this article are available at:
State of the Judiciary Judicial Elections Report Summary Jury Trials Indigent Defense Services Multi-Hat Judge Matrimonial Commission Solo & Small Firm Practice Office of Self-Represented National Adoption Day Court Reporters Listening Conference Construction Update Historic Courthouses and Trials Did You Know? Judicial Institute Calendar UCS Katrina Fund Update Black History Month