Massachusetts Legislature approves raises for state judges
By Nick Katers
BOSTON, Massachusetts: A bill increasing annual pay for state judges and court clerks is part of the current budget negotiations in the Massachusetts General Assembly. The House and Senate approved a $30,000 increase in the annual salary of associate judges and Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court justices over the next three years. The bill would also trigger a 22% increase in annual salaries for clerks and assistant clerks. State law requires that clerks receive 81.57% of a judge’s salary while an assistant clerk receives 77% of the same salary. Governor Deval Patrick supports the increase and will sign the raises into law when a final budget is approved later this month.
Senator Brian A. Joyce (D) sponsored the bill in response to delays in judicial pay increases over the past seven years. “It is critical that we have a strong and independent judiciary that attracts the best and the brightest,” said Joyce. The last raise for state judges came in 2006 when the Legislature overrode Governor Mitt Romney’s veto of a 15% pay increase. Massachusetts ranked 48th in terms of average adjusted salary for state judges and 30th for average salary for Supreme Court justices according to a 2012 report from the National Center for State Courts.
Joyce’s bill would start pay increases in June 2014 with a $15,000 boost with a $10,000 increase the next year and $5,000 in the final year. The Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court would see a 23% pay increase over the current salary of $151,239 while a clerk would earn $134,691 per year under the new plan. A comparable bill in the House would initiate raises in January 2014. The House approved its version of the bill with a 154-0 vote in April while the Senate approved the bill as part of a 35-3 vote in late May. A conference committee is currently negotiating differences between the budgets as well as the disparities between judicial pay raises.