Committee recommends 30 percent pay raise for Nevada judges | NevadaAppeal.com

Committee recommends 30 percent pay raise for Nevada judges

A task force appointed by the governor voted Monday to recommend a 30 percent pay raise for Nevada’s judges.

Deborah Schumacher, president of the District Court Judges Association, said if approved, judges wouldn’t get the raise until after they are re-elected two years from now. She said at that point, it would be their first raise in six years.

The proposal would boost district court judges from a base salary of $130,000 to $169,000 a year. It would raise Supreme Court Justices form $140,000 to $182,000.

Tom Sheets and Bill Bible, members of the Governor’s Judicial Compensation Task Force, also recommended increasing the total longevity pay veteran judges can qualify for. Under current law, judges begin receiving a 2 percent increase in pay for each year they have served after completing four years on the bench in recognition of their experience.

The maximum they can receive in longevity pay is currently capped at 22 percent. The task force voted to increase that to 30 percent, which Bible said would encourage experienced judges to stay on the bench longer.

The task force also recommended recognizing the extra workload borne by the person designated chief judge in any given district. Kathy Hardcastle, who has held that title in Clark County two years, said the administrative workload has increased dramatically.

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“The complexity of managing an urban court, even when you have a professional staff, is really demanding,” she said adding she expects to have the position another year because, “I’m not hearing anybody else wants to be chief judge.”

“Some type of incentive pay should be there to encourage people to step up,” she said.

Members agreed the same is true at the Supreme Court, where the position of chief justice rotates among the seven members.

The task force voted to recommend the chief justice of the Nevada Supreme Court receive an extra $10,000 a year for those duties. Chief judges in Clark and Washoe counties would receive $7,500 added to their salaries and those holding that responsibility in the remaining seven Nevada judicial districts would receive an extra $3,500 per year.

Keith Munro, chief of staff to Gov. Kenny Guinn, said the governor created the task force by executive order to examine judicial compensation. He said the governor has taken no position on judicial pay issues.

“We’re just trying to get the facts out there and make sure judges get compensated at a good rate so we can attract the best judges,” he said.

Bible recommended and the rest of the task force agreed to present their recommendations in a letter to the governor. Bible said the best scenario would be to include funding for appropriate judicial compensation in the governor’s proposed budget.

Sheets also asked the task force to consider a form of indexing to make sure judges don’t fall behind in pay. The problem is district and Supreme Court terms are six years so it’s that long between raises for Nevada’s elected judges. He agreed the Constitution bars raising or lowering an elected officer’s pay during their term of office but said if the index simply raises the judge’s compensation to offset inflation, that might not violate the Constitution because it wouldn’t actually be a pay raise.

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.