The Judicial Compensation Commission decided Tuesday to update an economist’s study on how the pay of Louisiana judges compares to their counterparts in other states.
The commission agreed to pay economist Loren Scott $14,000 to provide more recent information as it weighs making a pay raise recommendation to the Legislature next year.
Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge Frank Marullo said the quality of judges will deteriorate. Inflation and state pension law changes will only making the situation worse, he said.
“The quality of people wanting to be judges is going to go down,” Marullo said. “Disposable income is getting smaller and smaller and smaller. There’s less and less disposable income to be a judge.”
But legislators on the panel warned that the current state financial climate and lack of state employee pay raises makes the proposition a difficult sell regardless of what the study concludes.
“I don’t see the Legislature getting that deep into it,” said state Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie.
He said he could see a legislator saying, “I’m not voting for a pay raise because my cousin working in the agriculture department didn’t get a pay raise and I’ll get murdered on that. ... There’s always a fight in the Legislature about this.”
Outgoing Chairman former state Rep. Joe Toomy said legislation filed in the 2012 Legislature reflecting the committee’s recommendation did not even get a hearing. The commission had recommended pay raises of 3.8 percent to 0.9 percent depending on judicial position effective July 1, 2012, with a flat 2.2 percent raise the following year.
According to a 2012 survey by the National Center for State Courts, supreme court justice pay is $150,772; appellate court judge, $143,647; and district court judge, $137,744.
If a proposal is advanced, Toomy said, the commission needs to do a better job this time around of “educating people at the Capitol” about the factors that affect judges’ take-home pay. He said the panel should be shooting at bringing judges to at least the Southern regional average. He said they are pretty close to reaching that level.
Martiny suggested a judicial pay raise push would need to have the governor behind it for any chance of success.
State Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, said legislators recently have shot down pay raises proposed for the Causeway Commission and the Louisiana Lottery Corp. even though they would have been funded through self-generated revenues.
“It’s not an environment that’s going to embrace a raise for anyone,” Claitor said.
The commission decided to get Scott to update a report it received a year ago. The report would be due to the commission in mid-December with any recommendation going to the Legislature early next year.