House-passed bill would unlock pay raises for judges

Michael Gerstein
Associated Press

Lansing — Judges across Michigan could get a raise after 15 years of stagnant judicial salaries under a bill the House approved Tuesday.

The bill was sent back to the Senate, where it’s expected to be approved Wednesday and sent to Gov. Rick Snyder.

Judges’ salaries haven’t increased because their pay is tied to Supreme Court justices, who haven’t seen a raise in years. The measure would tie raises to salary increases given to non-union state workers, such as administrators, but won’t affect Supreme Court justices’ pay.

A fiscal analysis said if the bill were in place five years ago, an appeals judge earning $151,000 would have made $12,000 more. A circuit judge making around $140,000 would earn about $11,500 more. District court judges making $138,000 would have brought home about $11,000 more.

Bill sponsor Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, said the legislation removes the political jockeying by tying judges’ salaries to raises for other non-union state workers, who are mostly executives and administrators.

“It’s getting to the point where many attorneys don’t want to run for judge because they’ll actually take a huge pay cut,” Jones said.

House Fiscal Agency Robin Risko said non-unionized state workers get raises that are usually comparable to unionized workers.

Chief Justice Robert Young Jr. had told The Associated Press last year the current procedure for determining judge salaries makes raises unlikely.

“You want to have a bench where there’s a prospect of having the best and brightest lawyers in the state,” he said in May. “We’re getting to a point now where that is no longer a possibility.”