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Monday, February 11, 2008

NY Judges' Groups Balk at Proposed Pay Resolution

NY Judges' Groups Balk at Proposed Pay Resolution
New York Lawyer - February 11, 2008
By Daniel Wise - New York Law Journal

An effort to encourage the state's judicial associations to back a resolution expressing "unwavering support" for Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye's efforts to secure a pay raise has stalled, primarily because the proposal also expresses gratitude to the governor and legislative leaders for backing a raise.

The resolution, which was first adopted by the state County Court Judges Association has since been rejected by four groups and was tabled on Feb. 1 by the executive committee of the Association of Justices of the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, the executive committee of the Association of 60 Centre Street Board of Justices, which represents Manhattan Supreme Court judges, has endorsed the resolution.

The Association of Judges of the Family Court, however, has adopted a streamlined version of the resolution dropping laudatory language for Chief Judge Kaye, Governor Eliot Spitzer and legislators.

The groups that rejected the proposal said they were reluctant to show gratitude to Mr. Spitzer and legislative leaders, at least for now, because of Albany gridlock on the pay issue.

Chemung County Court Judge Peter C. Buckley, president of the County Court judges group, said last week that he was not aware of any other associations adopting the resolution, but added that the judges strongly "support the efforts of Chief Judge Kaye and Chief Administrative Judge Ann T. Pfau and hope the Legislature does the right thing."

An e-mail sent on Jan. 14 to all of the state's trial judges by Judge Eugene F. Pigott Jr. of the Court of Appeals proposed "a resolution of support for our Chief and Chief Administrative Judge so our elected officials know they speak for all of us without equivocation."

Judge Pigott also wrote, "I suggest we stop whining, support our leaders, and target the real problem, our legislators, with letters and e-mail showing our unity."

Inspired by Judge Pigott's message, the County Court judges adopted their resolution the next day, Jan. 15, and forwarded copies of it to 15 judicial groups offering it as a template should the others "see fit" to use it as "a sign of unity" among New York's 1,300 judges, Judge Buckley has stated.

In calling for the adoption of raises by April 1 as part of the budget process, the resolution states that on the pay-hike issue "Chief Judge Kaye and Chief Administrative Judge Pfau speak on our behalf with our full gratitude and support."

The resolution also expressed "gratitude" to Mr. Spitzer, the Senate and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan. The Senate was thanked for passing a pay raise bill, and Messrs. Spitzer and Silver for "their repeated expressed support."

Praise for the politicians doomed the resolution, according to the leaders of three associations that decided against adoption: the Association of Criminal Court Judges of the City of New York, the Board of Judges of the Civil Court of the City of New York and the Association of Housing Judges of the Civil Court of the City of New York.

Pocket Vetoes Exercised

Brooklyn Housing Court Judge Anthony Fiorella, head of the Housing Court judges group, reported that he declined to send the measure to a vote, as did Staten Island Civil Court Judge Philip Straniere, head of the Civil Court judges association. Members of the Criminal Court judges group voted the resolution down.

Brooklyn Justice Herbert Kramer, who heads the borough's Supreme Court justices association, said his group did not adopt the resolution because "there was a consensus that we should not deal with this issue at this time in this way. This should be done at the end of the process, not in the middle."

Justice Kramer added that the reaction of the Brooklyn group was "not positive in any regard" with respect to praising the judiciary's leaders or those of the executive and legislative branches.

Retired Acting Supreme Court Justice Robert D. Lippmann, who heads the Designated Supreme Court Justices Association, said his group has not yet considered the resolution but that its members strongly support the efforts of Judge Kaye and Judge Pfau while loath to praise those of Mr. Spitzer and legislative leaders.

Staten Island Supreme Court Justice Philip G. Minardo, head of the Supreme Court Justices Association of the City of New York, said his group would consider the County Court judges' resolution when it next meets on Feb. 26.

Justice Kramer, head of the Brooklyn group, said that Judge Pigott's e-mail did "achieve a purpose" in "toning down" the "level of vituperation" in the e-mails that trial judges send each other concerning the efforts of the chief judge, governor and legislative leaders.

And Judge Theodore T. Jones of the Court of Appeals made reference to the "unjust criticism of Judge Kaye's efforts" on the pay raise issue at a Feb. 2 meeting of the Judicial Section of the New York State Bar Association. About 50 judges attended the gathering.

Supreme Court Justice Leonard B. Austin of Nassau County, chairman of the state bar's Judicial Section, said Judge Jones urged the judges "to disagree without being disagreeable to each other."

The remarks were "well taken and well appreciated by the audience," Justice Austin added.

Queens Justice Joseph G. Golia, head of the Association of Justices of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, said his group's executive committee tabled consideration of the County Court judges' resolution without discussion.

Justice Golia, however, said that Judge Kaye received a round of applause after he praised her efforts to win a raise at a breakfast meeting preceding the statewide group's annual meeting Feb. 2, which was attended by about 100 justices. The meeting was held in conjunction with the New York State Bar Association's annual meeting at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square.

Pay Raise Maneuvering

The fate of a pay raise as part of this year's budget process remains uncertain. Mr. Spitzer has included an increase in his budget that would raise the salary of Supreme Court justices starting April 1 from $136,200 to the $169,300 now paid to U.S. District Court judges, with a component retroactive to April 1, 2006. The salaries of other judges would be adjusted proportionately.

Mr. Spitzer has agreed to accept a judicial pay raise without conditions, and the Senate passed a bill in December raising the salaries of judges only. But Mr. Silver has refused to move any legislation in the Assembly that does not also provide a raise for legislators. Raises for lawmakers and judges have historically been linked.

There have been reports that Mr. Silver has told his members that Mr. Spitzer is considering offering a bill that would provide for raises for legislators but it is unclear whether the Senate would go along with such a bill even though it passed a similar one last year.

Meanwhile, the judges have gone without a raise for more than nine years, longer than judges of any other state. Since the last raise went into effect, inflation has risen by more than 26 percent, and the salaries of New York's judges has slipped to 49th in the nation when adjusted for the cost of living.


Anonymous said...

no ethics. no raise.

Anonymous said...

Hey, "do the right thing," guys, kiss up and get your payoff. I heard Judges can be purchased cheaply these days. Personally, in my humble opinion this is one big conflict of interest. But, hey what's a conflict of interest among friends?

Anonymous said...

don't give them a penny, let them all quit and go on social security. No one would miss them and we can get along just fine without them.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

first pass laws that everybody get a yearly cost of living increase first.
Nobody said they have to be a judge. They do not like the pay go work someplace else.

Anonymous said...

I cannot believe they have the nerve to ask for pay raises, first clean up the corruption in the Courts, and when the dirty Judges finally go to Jail for getting kick backs under the table, you could fantasize about your so-called pay raises behind bars.

Anonymous said...

they don't deserve one penny more, all they do is con people and take their hard earned money along with the lawyers. Let Kaye and her band of gangsters retire to Florida the land of scams.

Anonymous said...

they should not get even one penny more, they don't deserve it. All they are is con men and scam artists. That's what attorneys are trained to be!

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