The top judge in New York State, Court of Appeals Chief Justice Judith Kaye, has threatned to sue the state if judges don't get raises by the summer. And according to the NY Times, a proposal to give them raises seems to have been a victim of the last minute deal-making for the state budget - Governor Spitzer did include a retroactive pay raise for judges, but lawmakers proposed a raise for both judges AND legislators. Then both were "dropped during closed-door budget negotiations." Ya gotta love bureaucracy - especially when Governor Spitzer, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver say they are all for a judicial pay raise.
Kaye did lay into Albany lawmakers during her remarks: "For more than eight years, longer than any other judges in America -- likely longer than any workers in any field -- New York state judges, for no reason other than Albany politics, have been denied even a cost-of-living adjustment to their salaries." Kaye also said she would ask Attorney General Cuomo and State Comptroller DiNapoli about raising judges' pay without legislative permission.
NY judges make $136,700/year, which federal district court judges make $165,200/year. Kaye herself makes $156,000, and a raise would increase her pay to $181,720. The concern over an underpaid judiciary stems from a desire to make sure good judges could be recruited.
And many New Yorkers are familiar with Kaye, even if her name doesn't quite ring a bell: She's the one who speaks to prospective jurors during the video (and she's trying to make jury duty better for New Yorkers). Last year, she wrote the dissent when the Court of Appeals rejected gay marriage; Kaye wrote, "This State has a proud tradition of affording equal rights to all New Yorkers. Sadly, the Court today retreats from that proud tradition... I am confident that future generations will look back on today's decision as an unfortunate misstep."
Photograph of Chief Justice Kaye by Mike Groll/AP