Columbus — The head of the Ohio Supreme Court has asked state lawmakers to consider increasing salaries for justices and judges.
Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor said those serving on the bench at the local and state levels have not had a pay increase since 2008.
“This is the longest dry spell ever for judges not to have received a pay raise, and it is extremely troubling,” O’Connor said during her annual State of the Judiciary speech at the Ohio Judicial Conference in suburban Columbus Aug. 28. “And that translates into some real loss within the judicial family across the state.”
She added, “Choosing a career in public service should not mean being saddled with a stagnant salary for the entire time or the majority of time that you spend on the bench. This amount of time without a pay raise is far too long.”
O’Connor earns $150,850 as chief justice, according to salary information compiled by the Ohio Supreme Court. Other justices earn $141,600 annually, and salaries range from $114,100-$132,000 for other full-time judges.
O’Connor said about 100 of the 700 judges currently serving cannot seek additional terms, meaning about 14 percent of the judiciary will have to be replaced over the next few years.
Salaries should be raised to provide additional incentive to join the bench, given the higher pay attorneys receive working in private practice, she said.
“…We have not asked for the moon, let me assure you that,” O’Connor said of her discussions with lawmakers on the issue. “I know that judge’s salaries cannot equal or match what big firms pay. None of us would be sitting in the room as judges if that’s what our expectations are … Modest annual cost-of-living increases that would keep pace with inflation is not too much to ask.”
O’Connor also floated the idea of forming a compensation commission to review and offer recommendations for judges and other elected officials.
“Without an effort to make judicial salaries more competitive, sitting judges will look to jump to private practice or other opportunities, and potential judges will not even give the bench the time of day or consideration,” she said.
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.