Steve Lash//Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer//January 18, 2017
//Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer
//January 18, 2017
ANNAPOLIS – The Maryland Judiciary seeks $576.4 million in fiscal year 2018 – a 5.4 percent increase from the $546.8 million appropriated for the judicial branch this fiscal year, which ends June 30.
The Judiciary’s proposed increase reflects a $10.4 million increase in salaries, wages and fringe benefits and a $13.2 million climb in operating expenses. The Judiciary’s budget request calls for a 1 percent increase in its number of authorized positions, to 3,989 from 3,950.5 this fiscal year.
The Judiciary’s budget request is independent of the budget Gov. Larry Hogan proposed Wednesday for executive-branch agencies in fiscal 2018, which begins July 1. The Maryland Constitution bars the governor from altering the Judiciary’s proposed budget – but the General Assembly can.
Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera, the state’s top jurist, is expected to defend the Judiciary’s request in hearings next week before subcommittees of the Senate Budget & Taxation and House Appropriations committees.
“I am certain that the members of your committees understand the complexity of our work to address the many and varied needs of the people of Maryland and the costs of doing that work well,” Barbera recently wrote in a letter to the committees’ leaders. “Only 1.2 percent of the overall state appropriation, the Judiciary budget, while comparatively small, ensures meaningful access to the courts in Maryland. As the General Assembly moves forward in investing in Maryland’s future, I urge your continued investment in fair, efficient, and effective justice for all Marylanders.”
The Judiciary’s budget has increased markedly during the past several years from $450.6 million in fiscal 2014, to $500.2 million in 2015, $507 million in fiscal 2016 and $546.8 this fiscal year.
Under the Judiciary’s request, the Court of Appeals’ budget would rise to nearly $11.8 million from $11.3 million this fiscal year. The high court received nearly $12 million in fiscal 2016.
The state’s intermediate court, the Court of Special Appeals, would have a budget increase to $12.7 million from $12.3 million this fiscal year and from $11.2 million in fiscal 2016.
Baltimore City and Maryland’s 23 counties pay to maintain circuit courts but not the judges and clerk’s offices in their jurisdictions.
The Judiciary’s fiscal 2018 budget would provide $64.9 million for the circuit court judges’ salaries, travel and equipment expenses, a nearly $3 million increase from this year. The number of authorized positions would increase by two, to 428 from 426.
The proposed budget would also provide $124.1 million to the clerks’ offices at the circuit courts, a $9 million increase from this year’s figure of $115.1 million. The number of authorized clerks’ office positions would increase by 20, to 1,463 from 1,443 this year.
The district courts’ budget would rise $5.4 million, to $191.9 million from $186.5 million this fiscal years The number of authorized positions would increase by 8.5, to 1,531 from 1,522.5.
The Administrative Office of the Courts’ budget would climb $3.1 million, to $86 million from $82.9 million this fiscal year.
Judicial salaries are set by statute and are not due to increase in fiscal 2018.
Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera is paid $195,433, while the six other Court of Appeals judges are each paid $176,433.
Court of Special Appeals Chief Judge Peter B. Krauser is paid $166,633, while the 14 other Court of Special Appeals judges are each paid $163,633.
Circuit Court judges are paid $154,433.
District Court Chief Judge John P. Morrissey is paid $163,633, while other district court judges are paid $141,333.C