Senate OKs higher judges’ pay

Published 1:10 am Sunday, February 13, 2011

The state Senate has passed a bill to increase the salaries of Mississippi judges.

The bill passed this week now goes to the House. The raises would be financed through increases in filing fees and other court-related costs, such as an $8.50 increase in the cost of traffic tickets and other misdemeanors.

Presently, Supreme Court justices are paid $112,530 with $105,050 for members of the Court of Appeals.

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Chief Justice William Waller Jr. is paid $115,390 a year, and Chief Court of Appeals Judge Leslie King earns $108,130 annually.

Under the bill, Supreme Court justices would be paid $152,250 annually after July 1, 2012. The chief justice would get $159,000 and two presiding justices $154,833.

On the Appeals Court, the chief judge would get $147,578 while other judges would get $144,827.

Salaries for circuit and chancery court judges would go from $104,170 to $136,000. The Senate also voted to increase the salaries of district attorneys from $95,796 to $125,900.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Doug Davis, R-Hernando, opposed the bill.

“I’m working with members of the Senate Appropriations Committee crafting a budget where we’re asking every state agency to take cuts of anywhere from 2 to 8 percent. At the same time, we were debating a bill on the floor of the Senate that would increase some judges’ pay by 38 percent.

“That, to me, is just not fair,” Davis said.

Waller said the last raise for the state’s appellate judges was in 2003.

“In a lot of ways some people are calling it a pay raise, and it’s a substantial pay raise,” Waller said. “We consider it a realignment. … The second thing is that we’ve really experienced, for the first time in recent history, the highest rate of turnover I’ve seen.”

The Senate this week also passed bill to provide that lawmakers would not received extra money if special session is called while they are already in session.

Several times in recent years, governors have called lawmakers into special session when they were already meeting in Jackson to deal with a specific issue, usually an economic development matter.

Lawmakers are paid $75 a day plus expenses for special sessions. A special session usually costs at least $30,000 a day

The bill did not address lawmakers’ salaries or other expenses.

The bills are Senate Bills 2253 and 2162.