Nevada judges to get hefty raise in January | NevadaAppeal.com
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Nevada judges to get hefty raise in January

One group of elected officials is getting a healthy raise in pay Jan. 1 despite the state’s budget crisis.

With the new year, all Nevada Supreme Court and District Court judges will get $30,000 added to their annual salaries. That will bring the annual compensation for Supreme Court justices to $170,000 and district judges to $160,000.

The increases, approved by the 2007 Legislature, will cost the state an estimated $2.8 million a year.

The raises, when compared to judicial salaries for the 50 states, will put Nevada’s Supreme Court salaries among the 10 highest in the nation and the District Court salaries in the top five.

However, that salary ranking, compiled by the National Center for State Courts, listed salaries as of Jan. 1, 2008, and a number of other states have since increased the pay of their judges as well.

It’s the first pay raise Nevada’s judges have received since the 2001 Legislature.

Jim Hardesty, incoming chief justice of the Nevada Supreme Court, and Bill Maddox, who leaves his seat at Carson District Court in two weeks, both pointed out that judges only get a raise every six years. Hardesty said that at one point they went without for 12 years ” two judicial terms of office.

“Most employees at the state get annual raises,” said Hardesty. “And if you aggregate those raises, that’s about what the judges are getting.”

In fact, Hardesty said the percentage pay raise for judges was slightly lower than state workers have received over that same eight year period.

Maddox and Carson District Judge Todd Russell said the rate is less than what local government workers have gotten over time.

And all of them said good salaries are necessary to attract talented lawyers to the bench.

They said there’s a lot of truth in the statement by former Supreme Court Justice Cliff Young that, if a lawyer isn’t taking a pay cut to become a judge, he probably isn’t a good enough lawyer to be a good judge.

Administration officials confirmed that they considered taking back the judicial pay raises in the most recent special legislative session. No reason was given why that wasn’t on the table.

According to the National Center for the State Courts, California pays its judges the most: $218,237 a year for the Supreme Court and $178,789 for Superior Court ” their equivalent of district  court. That state is followed by Illinois, Delaware Pennsylvania and Florida.

Montana was lowest at $105,185 for the Supreme Court and $99,234 for district court.

Those numbers, however, do not include any raises the states may have given since January 2008.

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