February 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

The judicial pay raise bill comes up for a vote before the full House today at 2:00 p.m.  If you support the bill, and I hope you do, it’s critical that you contact your legislators and tell them how important it is to you for them to vote for it.

As lawyers, you can appreciate the importance of an independent judiciary.  Adequate pay is an important component of independence.  Trial judges in Mississippi have not had a pay raise in seven years, and our pay is the lowest in the United States.  In that seven year period, other state employees have had significant pay increases, some of which have been quite large.  The judges have been told repeatedly to wait.  When we had the money to fund judicial raises, the “time is not right” for one reason or another.  Now that we do not have the money and we are seeking to fund the raise with an increase in our court fees (which will still be the lowest in the southeast after the increase), there are still objections:

  • Some argue that the bill does not fund itself.  Justice Waller insists that the numbers do work.  The prosecutors hitched themselves to our bill, and those numbers are being crunched, but the hope is that it will work.  If the bill will not pay for itself, Governor Barbour will not sign it. 
  • I am hearing that the board of supervisors association is working against the bill on the basis that it is an unfunded mandate for the five counties whose county court judges are tied to the trial judges salaries.  This is an interesting argument since the supervisors made no such objection to the dramatic increases in justice court judge and county prosecutor pay increases.  I understand from one source that there were brochures being circulated within an hour or so of the bill coming out of Judicial “A” on this issue.  
  • DHS has pointed out that the bill will impose additional court costs on its child support filings. 
  • Members of the conservative caucus are against any increase of anything.  If your legislators were among those who voted against any funding of the judiciary at all, it would help if you would give them a call and explain why the judicial branch not only needs to be funded, but why the trial judges need pay increases. 

I’ve spelled out these objections so that you can be prepared to meet them when you talk with legislators.  It would also help to arm yourself with the facts from Justice Waller’s message below.

The entire judicial branch budget is not even one percent of the entire state budget.  We say that we have three equal branches of government that balance each other, but our budget does not bear that out. 

This issue is important to your trial judges.  If you feel the same as a member of the bar, I ask you please to exercise your influence with your legislators.  A simple call or email will do the job.  Thanks.

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