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Barbera, fellow judges press lawmakers for judicial pay raise

Salary increase would be first in three years

Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera. (File photo)

Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera (File photo)

ANNAPOLIS – Maryland’s top jurist pressed senators Wednesday to approve what would be the first judicial pay raise in three years, saying a salary increase is necessary to attract and retain the best legal talent for the bench.

“There is no question that public service requires personal and financial sacrifice,” Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera told the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee. “Our judges gave up successful careers in the law … at great financial sacrifice.”

Continued salary stagnation will discourage lawyers from jumping from the bar to the bench, placing the quality of the judiciary in jeopardy, she said.

“We don’t want to run the risk that they are unable to take” the financial hit, Barbera said of lawyers considering applying for a judgeship.

The chief judge’s comments came as the Senate committee is considering a House-passed resolution that calls for judges to receive a $5,000 raise on July 1, the first day of fiscal year 2019. The judges would then receive annual raises of $5,000 the next three fiscal years for a total boost of $20,000 as of July 1, 2021.

The resolution, as amended by the House Appropriations Committee, reflects a lower pay raise than the Maryland Judicial Compensation Commission recommended in January. The commission had sought a $10,000 raise July 1 and a total increase of $35,000 as of July 1, 2021.

Barbera made no specific mention of the reduction from the original resolution, speaking only of the “lagging compensation of judges in Maryland” and the need “to attract and retain a diversity of well-qualified” judges.

Court of Appeals Judge Joseph M. Getty, a former senator who served on the Budget and Taxation Committee, told the legislators that a well-qualified judiciary is “key in the implementation” of laws the General Assembly has passed to help ensure that non-violent criminals receive mental-health and drug treatment.

“We need to have smart and responsible judges to make those decisions, Getty said. “Competitive salaries are part of the equation.”

House Joint Resolution 3 would boost Barbera’s salary, as the state’s top jurist, to $200,433 as of July 1. Court of Special Appeals Chief Judge Patrick L. Woodward’s salary would climb to $171,633 and John P. Morrissey, chief district court judge, would have a salary boost to $168,633.

The salary of Court of Appeals judges would rise to $181,433, and Court of Special Appeals judges’ pay would increase to $168,633.

Circuit court judges would receive $159,433, while a district court judge’s pay would increase to $146,333.

By comparison, Gov. Larry 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.

Woodward and Morrissey also testified before the Senate committee in favor of the proposed pay increase, as did Baltimore County Circuit Judge Kathleen G. Cox, who chairs the Conference of Circuit Judges.

Maryland State Bar Association President Sara H. Arthur joined the judges on behalf of the organization.

“The people of Maryland deserve the best and the brightest,” Arthur told the Senate committee. “This (proposed raise) is a factor in drawing the best and the brightest.”

At the end of the resolution’s four-year cycle, the Court of Appeals chief judge’s salary would be $215,433; the Court of Special Appeals chief judge would be paid $186,633; and the chief district court judge would get $183,633.

The salary of Court of Appeals judges would be $196,433; Court of Special Appeals judges would get $183,633; circuit court judges would receive $174,433; and district court judges would be paid $161,333.

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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