On Tuesday, January 14, the Judiciary Committee voted to support a measure granting all 60 Maine judges a 4 percent cost-of-living increase for both the current and prior fiscal year. Although the judiciary received a pay raise in July 2013 (the first since 1998), the statute also provides for annual cost-of-living increases, and the Maine bench has not received a cost-of-living increase since 2008. Even with the proposed increases, Maine’s judiciary would still be among the lowest paid in the nation. Read on for more about the proposal, and why Maine’s flagging judicial compensation should matter to Maine companies.
Despite the July 2013 raise, Maine judges are still among the lowest paid in the country. Maine lags far behind even New Hampshire, despite their similar caseloads. The following chart provides a sampling of the highest and lowest-paid judiciaries in the country:
Highest and lowest judicial salaries as of January 1, 2013. Source: National Center for State Courts (NCSC) (Link to report)
According to the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), Maine’s judicial compensation is failing to keep up with inflation.
Judiciary salaries over a decade, 2003-2013. Source: National Center for State Courts (NCSC) Maine judiciary salaries over a decade, 2003-2013. Source: NCSC
Proponents of a pay increase such as Joshua Tardy, chairman of the Judicial Compensation Commission, have expressed the concern that the professional diversity of the bench is narrowing, with most justices having a background in government or legal service agencies and no private practice or business experience. In today’s global and technology-driven economy, the Maine judiciary needs diverse and qualified candidates to keep pace with the issues affecting Maine companies and consumers. More competitive judicial compensation could help to cultivate a more diverse and qualified bench.
Before the cost-of-living increase goes through, the bill needs to pass through the House and Senate, and to receive funding approval from the Appropriations Committee.