Monday, August 12, 2013

 
JUDICIAL PAY - NEVER AN EASY QUESTION

This is an impossible question, especially when budgets are tight. The district court judges of Cameron county are happy with the $15,000 pay raise voted for them and paid for by the state. But they also want an extra 3% from the county.   What the county pays the county judges is in part tied to a  formula for district court judges' pay.

In the end this could force the county to cut services elsewhere so judges can get the money they want.  There is also the issue of county employees - they are long overdue for a good raise.

But here is the deal  - there is only so much money.

But here is also the deal - more often than not you will hear of good judges leaving the bench because they cannot afford to send their kids to college on a judicial salary.  This is true.  Most judges in private practice could easily earn an additional $100,000 plus or more.  Trust me being a judge is a lot easier than being an attorney.  Many attorneys routinely put in 70 hour weeks.  Young first year attorneys work 80 hour weeks with some big firms requiring they  sleep in small dormitory areas located within the office - with only Sunday off.

My view is simple - you get what you paid for.  Abel Limas may still have been  corrupt had he earned $100,000 more a year.  But I know for sure there are  lot of great lawyers who would leave private practice and bring justice back to our courts if we would just pay them their worth.

The other side - I have long advocated a system wherein if you want to be a judge you must have 10 years experience.  You must have a judicial certificate which requires 30 hours of judicial training at a law school.  Once you pass a state test to be a judge, you can then be put on  a list for appointment with 6 year retention elections.  To be an appellate judge I would say you need 45 additional hours of judicial training.  The appointment process and retention elections would be the same.  To be on the Texas Supreme Court or Court of Criminal Appeals you should need an additional 60 credits hours at a law school in judicial training.  For these positions I would also agree to appointment  from a qualified pool, and 6 year retention elections.

Until we are prepared to pay our judges a proper salary we will continue to have mediocre judges and corruption.  The system I propose requires effort beyond playing a political machine to get elected.

I would have no problem paying district court judges $250,000 a year.  For a good honest judge they are worth it.  It would significantly reduce the number of appeals and overall the cost of litigation.  Counties in the end could actually find a need for fewer judges as lawyers come to realize game playing will not be tolerated and cases will be moved along based on the law.

But I get it - in the short run budgets are tight and our county commissioners need to deal with employee pay raises before providing more money to the judges.

But maybe what they can do is vote a resolution in support of what I am proposing.  In the end, with even higher salaries I believe the state and county would save money as the need for judges will go down as attorneys come to realize the gig is up.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Excellent idea on the vetting process!! I also believe every judge, DA, ADA should be required to spend a weekend in jail (protective custody of course). How can you send someone some place you've never been? Maybe even LE officers every 5 years. DAs that suppress evidence or LE enforcement officers that set people up should be stripped of their accreditation and be made to serve the time they framed someone for. Talk about accountability
.

BobbyWC said...

Comment rejected - if you are going to read the BV - learn to read

The theme is - judicial pay is an impossible question - not the small details of what is going on with the budget discussions and how the state can give money only to then have the county take it away

I covered the problems with the county budget - cutting services - not giving regular employees a raise if the judges get what they want.

But then I also discussed the issue of keeping good judges and how in the long run it could save the state and county money through fewer judges - I can think of at least 3 district court judges who could die tomorrow and no one would notice they are gone. We have at least three too many district court judges.

If you want a detailed numbers post - which is not what this post is all about - call the county - get the numbers and send me the post

But that is not the issue - it is the balancing of the needs of the judges and the system versus a tight budget and fiscal responsibility

Bobby WC