The State Officers Compensation Commission recommended that Michigan judges get a 3% pay raise in 2013 and another 3% the following year, in a report released yesterday.
Good news for the state’s judiciary in light of a decade of frozen salaries and the near-certain knowledge that in many cases, they’d be far better off if they were in private practice.
But that’s what being a public servant is all about, right?
The recommended raise would bump Michigan Supreme Court justices’ salaries to $169,548 in 2013 and $174,634 in 2014. Lower court judges would benefit because their salaries are based on a percentage of what the justices make.
But along with the raise recommendation, the SOCC handed the judiciary an enormous problem.
The SOCC recommended pay freezes for the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state and legislators, who all took a ten percent cut at the beginning of the year.
And don’t forget about the current round of heavy-handed “negotiations” of concessions from public employees’ unions.
You could almost imagine mobs of outraged peons storming the Hall of Justice with torches and pitchforks if the raises actually received the required legislative approval.
The Michigan Supreme Court must have been thinking along those lines when it caught wind of the SOCC’s recommendations.
The Court came up with an elegant solution that avoided a potential public relations disaster, nipped in the bud any legislative grousing about over-paid, under-worked judges and portrayed the judiciary as a group of responsible public employees.
On behalf of the state’s judges, the Court all but turned down the recommended raise. The Court’s statement:
The judges of Michigan appreciate that the State Officers Compensation Commission has recognized that a freeze on judicial compensation for over a decade is not good public policy.
Our priority continues to be to make the justice system right-sized, smarter, more user-friendly and more accountable. We appreciate the recommendation for an increase in compensation.
Given the continued budgetary situation of the state, however, we would understand if the legislature chose not to increase judicial salaries at this time.
We are confident that as Michigan’s recovery progresses, the issue will be revisited.
The Court’s statement was backed by the Michigan Judges Association, the Michigan Probate Judges Association, the Michigan District Court Judges Association, and the Michigan Judicial Conference.