Judges just don’t seem to get it

In a commentary on Monday I wrote about the proposed pay freeze for state employees in the executive branch for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

In the commentary I suggest that the lege and judicial branches of government also freeze their pay. I noted that the lege had frozen their pay for the current year. However, I didn’t know if the judiciary had done likewise.

On Wednesday, the Baton Rouge paper reported that, in fact, the judges received a 4.9 percent pay raise this fiscal year.  That’s a substantial pay raise when one considers the average pay for state judges … ranges from $136,544 for general trial court judges to $149,571 for the highest court.

In other words, some of the highest paid state employees received substantial pay raises while the lower paid employees received none.

It’s not surprising that the judges would be out of touch. Anyone who has ever dealt with them in their professional capacity likely found them, at best, aloof and at worst arrogant. Such attitudes seem to be an occupational hazard for judges because they are virtual dictators in their own courtrooms.

In reality, judges in Louisiana are no different than any other public employee except they have law degrees and wear black robes. Therefore, when the state is facing a fiscal crisis, they should be treated no differently from the other public servants when it comes to pay raises.

The news story reported the commission (of which some members are judges and lawyers) appointed to oversee judicial pay punted.   They failed to make a recommendation on whether the judges should or shouldn’t get a raise.

Instead, they sent to the leges a study that said the judges are paid slightly below the southern average.   The story and, apparently, the study does not indicate whether the judges’ workload and performance is at or above the southern average.

However, that does not mean the judges and the judicial employees won’t get a raise in the coming year. The judiciary has its own separate budget which is approved by the leges (many of whom are lawyers) and they manage their own finances.

The judiciary should let the citizens of Louisiana know that they understand the plight of the citizens of Louisiana and their fellow state employees and announce a pay freeze for the entire Judicial Branch of government for the upcoming fiscal year.

Perhaps the taxpayers’ money saved by not giving themselves raises can be used instead to provide medication for some indigent children that are having their prescriptions curtailed because of the budget crisis.


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