February 2, 2003 Indianapolis Star

Letter to the Editor
State's judges are due for a pay raise

February 2, 2003
The state's strength can be measured by many factors: families, schools, health care, employment and the economy. These are vitally important, but without a first-rate judicial system, all is at risk.

We in Indiana have been fortunate to have a judiciary with many talented and dedicated public servants. But with sub-par judicial pay, we are neglecting the present and risking the future.

Our judges enter the legal profession as lawyers after a rigorous and expensive law school education, often incurring six figures of debt. By the time they are elected judges, most are raising families and trying to fund education for their children. Yet, our judicial pay ranks 47th in the nation. Our judges are entering their seventh year without a pay raise, losing $10,000 of buying power in the interim. Kentucky's trial court judges are paid over $23,000 a year more than their Indiana counterparts.

As a result, fewer private practitioners, prosecutors and defenders can afford to pursue an Indiana judgeship, thus narrowing the talent pool. And experienced judges have strong incentives not to stay on the bench and serve the public.

The proposed legislation to adjust judicial pay would restore Indiana to the middle of the pack nationally in judicial pay. Moreover, that adjustment would come through court user fees.

Two years ago, the legislature passed a similar judicial-pay adjustment package, but it was vetoed. The need for enhanced judicial pay in Indiana is even greater today.

On behalf of the more than 4,000 members of the Indianapolis Bar Association, I encourage the legislature and governor to restore judicial pay to reasonable levels.

John R. Maley

Past president

Indianapolis Bar Association