Lawmakers told some Nevada Supreme Court salaries out of balance
Supreme Court Justice Jim Hardesty told the committee studying unclassified and non-classified salaries seven positions within the Supreme Court are underpaid compared to similar posts in other agencies and local governments in Nevada.
“A lot of legal counsel in the court systems are being paid less than lawyers are being paid in several other departments,” he said.
Hardesty specifically mentioned the Public Utilities Commission, Gaming Control Board and Ethics Commission as being able to pay lawyers more than the Supreme Court can.
“We have lost lawyers in the Supreme Court to other positions in the state, legal counsel and lawyers doing similar jobs,” he said.
He said the gap is much larger when Supreme Court and other state legal positions are compared with those in counties and cities.
“Lawyers generally throughout the state are vastly underpaid compared with lawyers in other jurisdictions,” he said.
Legal counsel at the high court cap out at $137,286 a year compared to just shy of $200,000 in Clark County and $141,838 in Carson City.
Hardesty said the same is true of law clerks — especially when Supreme Court clerks are compared with those in the federal judicial system.
He said the Supreme Court’s state court administrator receives $131,347 compared to the $163,537 average for local governments — a 22.7 percent difference. His deputy director, he said, gets $113,436 maximum pay compared to the average $139,318 around the state.
Hardesty again made the pitch to lawmakers the Supreme Court itself should have the ability to decide what to pay its top administrators and its lawyers. He has argued in the past those salaries shouldn’t be defined by the Legislature through the unclassified pay bill. He said the high court should get its appropriation from the Legislature and then be allowed to set salaries according to job descriptions and abilities.
The study committee took no action on the issue but asked fiscal staff for a report and recommendations by October to forward to the Legislative Commission and governor’s office.