It has been about ten years since New York State judges have received salary increases. They have been stuck at the same salary while civil service employees pass them by.
The New York judiciary, headed by Chief Judge Judith Kaye, took the drastic step of suing for a salary increase. The Chief Judge sued the Governor, the Assembly Speaker, and the Senate Majority Leader. The Chief Judge has been most reluctant to bring a lawsuit which is a Pandora’s Box of constitutional issues. Whether or not the lawsuit succeeds is not entirely relevant. It is Exhibit 1 evidencing the frustration of the judges. The legislative process has failed them.
Unfortunately, this could not come at a worse time for the State which has a deficit and foresees future shortfalls. The Governor said that in view of the deficit state employees, including judges, should not expect salary “enhancements.” Nonetheless, money should be found by either cutting or trimming some questionable expenditures. For example, the New York Law Journal reported on May 30, 2008, that the Legislature has allocated over $5,500,000 to three universities for the cost of “exploring” the feasibility of opening new law schools (See http://www.law.com/jsp/law/careercenter/lawArticleCareerCenter.jsp?id=1202421782269.)
It is highly questionable whether the State needs three additional law schools. Could not the State have used this money for the judges? Are not there other expenditures which are unnecessary?
It is my opinion that the State’s allocation of funds for future law schools is a waste. The Legislature must give some salary relief to the judiciary now, the working judges who man (and woman) the justice system each and every day. The Legislature’s gift for the exploratory study of more law schools is like a homeowner planning a room addition while ignoring the leaky roof which needs repair now.
Mark E. Seitelman, 7/14/08, www.seitelman.com