The debate over judicial salaries was launched last year, when Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers requested an initial 11 percent raise, followed by 5.5 percent increases in each of the next three years. Her proposal to the Judicial Compensation Commission called for Superior Court judges to go from earning $146,780 currently to $191,890 in 2017.
Rogers noted that Connecticut judges have not had a pay increase in five years and that their current salaries, when adjusted for the state's high cost of living, ranked them 45th nationally. She said comparatively low salaries are driving experienced judges out of the court system and making it harder to attract top-notch lawyers to the bench.
All of that was taken into consideration when the compensation review board met and made its recommendations to the legislature.
Tim Fisher, a McCarter & English partner and chair of the compensation review board, said the state's ability to pay for the salary increases was one of many factors the board tasked with considering. With that in mind, he said, the proposed salary increases for judges represent a very small percentage of the judicial budget.
Even if the raises are approved, he said, judicial salaries will make up "an even smaller percentage of the General Fund than judge's salaries represented 10 years ago."
"Many, if not most, state employees are receiving raises and no one presented an argument to our commission that judges are less deserving of raises than other state employees," Fisher said. "Especially considering how little judges have received by way of raises over the last 10 years."