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Md. judges would get first raise since 2015 under joint resolution

The judge's bench in a courtroom in Carroll County Circuit Court. (File photo)

The judge’s bench in a courtroom in Carroll County Circuit Court. (File photo)

ANNAPOLIS – Maryland’s judges would receive their first salary increase in three years under a proposed joint resolution in the General Assembly.

The resolution calls for judges to receive a $10,000 raise on July 1, the first day of fiscal year 2019. The judges would then receive annual raises the next three fiscal years for a total boost of $35,000 as of July 1, 2021.

The resolution, pending before Senate and House committees, reflects recommendations the Maryland Judicial Compensation Commission made this month to raise judicial salaries for the first time since July 1, 2015, and to preserve what the commission called the judiciary’s vitality.

Judicial “salaries have failed to keep pace with inflation” and “there is now a compelling need to increase judicial salaries, in order to assure that qualified individuals will continue to be attracted to serve as judges,” the seven-member commission stated in a letter this month to Gov. Larry Hogan and the Senate and House leaders.

The resolution would boost the salary of the state’s top jurist – Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera – to $205,433 as of July 1. Court of Special Appeals Chief Judge Patrick L. Woodward’s salary would climb to $176,633 and John P. Morrissey, chief district court judge, would have a salary boost to $173,633.

The salary of Court of Appeals judges would rise to $186,433, and Court of Special Appeals judges’ pay would increase to $173,633.

Circuit Court judges would receive $164,433, while a district court judge’s would increase to $151,333.

By comparison, Hogan’s annual salary is $180,000. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. and House Speaker Michael E. Busch are paid $65,371 each.

Court of Appeals Judge Joseph M. Getty defended the proposed judicial salary increase in a statement Wednesday.

“Maryland judges are dedicated to providing fair and effective justice to our citizens both in the courtroom and through educational programs in their communities,” Getty stated.

“Their decision to enter the realm of public service often comes with trade-offs,” he added. “The report of the Judicial Compensation Commission to the General Assembly warns that the trade-offs should not be so large that the best candidates walk away from public service. In a national ranking of 50 states and the District of Columbia, the salary of Maryland judges dropped in their competitive position. Our hope is to regain our competitiveness, so we can best serve the citizens of Maryland.”

The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing Feb. 7 on Senate Joint Resolution 5. House Joint Resolution 3 is pending before the House Appropriations Committee, which has not yet scheduled a hearing.

Maryland law prohibits the General Assembly from amending the judicial-salary resolution to increase the proposed raises, but lawmakers are permitted to reject the resolution, adopt it as proposed or approve it with reduced raises. If the General Assembly fails to act on the proposed resolution within 50 days of its Jan. 24 introduction, the proposed raises would go into effect.

In its report on the proposed raises, the commission compared Maryland’s judicial salaries to those in the other 49 states.

The panel found Barbera’s current salary ranks 10th among the 50 state supreme court chief judges and behind the neighboring states of Pennsylvania, Delaware and Virginia. The salary of her Maryland Court of Appeals colleagues ranks 13th among state supreme court judges nationally.

Maryland Court of Special Appeals judges rank 19th among intermediate state appellate courts, the commission found. Maryland’s circuit court judges’ salary comes in 21st nationally among courts of general jurisdiction.

Under the proposed joint resolution, the judicial salaries would increase by another $10,000 in fiscal 2020 and then $7,500 in each of the next two fiscal years.

Thus, as of July 1, 2021, the Court of Appeals chief judge’s salary would be $230,433; the Court of Special Appeals chief judge would be paid $201,633; and the chief district court judge would get $198,633.

The salary of Court of Appeals judges would be $211,433; Court of Special Appeals judges would get $198,633; circuit court judges would receive $189,433; and district court judges would be paid $176,333.

Judicial Compensation Commission members are named by the governor, the leaders of the Senate and House, and the Maryland State Bar Association.

Elizabeth Buck chairs the commission. The other members are Norman Conway, Edward Gilliss, Van Mitchell, Alice Pinderhughes, Joshua Schmerling and John Suit II.

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