The Massachusetts Judges Conference, through its president, the
Hon. James G. Collins, is lobbying the House of Representatives and
Senate, as well as Gov. Deval Patrick, for a long-overdue increase
to judicial compensation.
Representing nearly 80 percent of the state's approximately 400
judges and more than 100 bench retirees, the MJC has presented
legislators with an informational packet making the case to
implement the recommendations of the Advisory Board on Compensation
for Honorable Judicial Salaries (a.k.a. the Guzzi Commission)
issued in 2008.
According to the most recent "Survey of Judicial Salaries"
reported by the National Center for State Courts in 2011,
Massachusetts judicial salaries, after accounting for cost of
living, rank 47th lowest in the country. This marks a
worsening of the matter since the Guzzi Commission recommendations
were presented. At that time, Massachusetts ranked
Created and appointed by the Legislature in 2008 and led by Paul
Guzzi, the president and chief executive officer of the Greater
Boston Chamber of Commerce, the Guzzi Commission recommended
raising Bay State judges' compensation levels to rank
28th, when adjusted for the cost of living. Another
provision included annual cost-of-living adjustments for members of
the bench. Currently, without legislative action, COLA increases
are not provided to members of the bench.
The MJC has received growing support on this issue from the bar
and other community groups and leaders as it attempts to secure
only the second pay increase for judges in the last 14 years.
"We believe that now is the appropriate time to consider the
recommendations of the Guzzi Commission," said Collins. "The Judges
Conference has not breathed a word until now as we recognized the
difficulties that this state faced in terms of the recession."
Collins explained that last winter, 97 percent of Massachusetts
judges and clerks voluntarily agreed to take five furlough days.
According to the MJC's materials provided to the Legislature, this
significant measure saved $2.4 million, and thereby avoided layoffs
of nearly 50 critically needed court personnel.
Collins explained that the current compensation level for the
bench is not in line with judges' "heavy duty to ensure
Massachusetts judges last saw a pay increase in 2006 thanks to
the Legislature's passing of a pay raise bill. Prior to 2006,
judicial compensation was stagnant since 1998, when a multi-year
phase-in salary increase took place.
"This reality jeopardizes the commonwealth's ability to attract
and retain the brightest minds of the bar to serve in the crucial
roles on the bench," said Richard P. Campbell, president,
Massachusetts Bar Association.
As Campbell also points out in his "President's View" column in
this issue, a significant amount of state employees are paid more
than the members of Massachusetts' highest court.
According to the NCSC, Massachusetts Trial Court judges are paid
an average of $129,694, or $106,370 when adjusted for cost of
living. Taking COLA into account, only judges in New York, Vermont,
Maine and Hawaii earn less.
Regarding when the MJC anticipates the governor and Legislature
act will act on this matter, Collins said, "hopefully sometime
later this year," after the state budget is finalized.