judgekaye.jpgState judges want a raise in salaries after years of paycheck stagnation. They got close during last year's budget negotiations as the former Governor Spitzer lobbied on their behalf, but the proposal was dropped in closed-door negotiations. The primary stumbling block: state legislators are tying any raise in judges' salaries to a pay raise for themselves.

Once again this year, the judges were stonewalled on a pay increase and the state's top Honor, Judge Judith Kaye, is bringing the dispute out of the legislature and into her home court, so to speak: She is suing the state for judicial pay raises.

The case will be heard by a fellow state judge, who stands to receive the very raise that Judge Kaye is arguing for. Her argument is that the current low pay of state judges ($139,600 annual salary) threatens the independence of the state judiciary and deters the attraction of well-qualified candidates to the bench.

The $139,000 salary sounds like, and is, a good deal of money; but among the legal field it's chump change. As The New York Sun points out, a 24-year-old law school grad recruited to a top firm can pull in $160,000 a year. In the past, state judges have gone as far as suggesting that they should boycott any case before them that involves a state legislator.

(Photo of Judge Kaye, by Mike Groll/AP)