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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Honest Judges Deserve Big Pay Increase; Corrupt Judges Must Be Removed

Legislation Creates Judicial Pay Commission
The New York Law Journal by Joel Stashenko - December 1, 2010

ALBANY, NEW YORK - The frustration of New York state judges who have gone without a raise since 1999 came a step closer to ending yesterday after lawmakers approved the creation of a commission to recommend new salary levels once every four years. The judicial pay commission—if approved as expected by Governor David A. Paterson—would represent the best prospect for a salary increase for some 1,300 state-paid judges since their last pay hike nearly a dozen years ago. The commission would be created once every four years, beginning April 1, 2011, and recommend within 150 days salary adjustments for the next four years. The earliest the first raise could take effect would be April 1, 2012, under the legislation (A42010/S68010) approved Monday evening by the state Senate and a few minutes after midnight yesterday by the Assembly. Under the measure, commissions will consider the "prevailing adequacy of pay levels and non-salary benefits" of judges and whether "any such pay levels warrant adjustment." The legislation does not set new salary levels for the judiciary. Rather, it empowers the seven-member commission to consider inflation and the state's ability to increase compensation as well as the salaries of federal judges, judges in other states and officials in other branches of state government, among other factors. Unless the Legislature specifically votes to oppose the commission's recommendations, increases would become effective each April 1 under a schedule laid out by the panel. Proposals by the Unified Court System have generally sought to bring the $136,700-a-year salaries of Supreme Court justices in line with federal district court judges, who earn $170,000 a year, with other state judges receiving proportional increases.

The commission would disband after making its recommendations next year and a new panel would form on April 1, 2015, and every four years after that to reconsider the compensation question. Mr. Paterson urged lawmakers to consider the pay commission bill during the session that started Monday. "The Governor proposed this bill because he believes it is critical to keep New York's judicial system competitive with systems in other states by working to attract and retain top talent within our judiciary," Jessica Bassett, a Paterson spokeswoman, said yesterday. The Senate approved the measure 57-0. The Assembly, whose Democratic majority has balked in recent years at passing a judicial pay bill without also hiking state legislators' pay, passed it 99-22. Proponents say the commission will remove consideration of judicial salaries from politics. And judges have argued that they can only mount feeble lobbying efforts with the other two branches of government to get higher pay. In the meantime, bar and judges' groups say the level of pay has forced good judges to leave the bench in search of higher-paying jobs and deterred talented lawyers from seeking judgeships. Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, who has lobbied hard for a pay raise, as did his predecessor Judith S. Kaye, called the commission's passage a near "miracle" given the perilous condition of the state budget and the shaky economy. "It is a magnificent day," Judge Lippman said in an interview. "I think that this is, for us, the Holy Grail." A recurring mechanism to determine judicial salaries "takes us out of politics forever so that we never have to go through what we have gone through for the last decade. It is so important for the institution of the Judiciary. Now we have a future," Judge Lippman said. Former Chief Judge Kaye first brought up the idea of a pay commission in her State of the Judiciary address in February 2006 as a way of preventing raise droughts and taking the issue out of politics. Her inability to gain a raise for the Judiciary was a frustration in the final years of her record-long 15-year tenure as chief judge. She eventually sued the governor and Legislature to force them to grant an increase. Victor Kovner, chairman of the pro-raise Fund for Modern Courts, called a commission a "rational solution" to a logjam in Albany that will "once and for all remove judicial compensation from the political process." Stephen P. Younger, president of the New York State Bar Association, said that "an independent, well qualified judiciary must be compensated in a fair, consistent manner that is as free from political interference as possible." The New York City Bar, the New York County Lawyers' Association and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., among others, publicly urged lawmakers to back a commission once Mr. Paterson put it on an agenda of items he would like to see the Legislature address during its session this week.

Seven-Member Commission

Under the bill, three members of the seven-member commission are to be appointed by the governor, one each by the Assembly speaker and Senate majority leader and two by the chief judge. The governor will designate the chair. Members will not be paid, but will be reimbursed for expenses. The formation of a pay commission may cause the plaintiffs in suits designed to compel the Legislature to take up a judicial pay raise bill to back off their litigation. Judge Lippman, the plaintiff in Chief Judge v. Governor, said the removal of the pay question from the political realm was "our main objective" in bringing the suit, which was initiated by Ms. Kaye and taken over by Judge Lippman when she retired at the end of 2008. Bernard W. Nussbaum of Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz, Judge Lippman's attorney in Chief Judge v. Governor, called the legislation "major" and "historic."

"This takes judicial pay out of the realm of politics where it does not belong," Mr. Nussbaum said yesterday. "This could have major impacts around the country and for the federal government." Two weeks ago, Thomas E. Bezanson of Cohen & Gresser and George Bundy Smith of Chadbourne & Parke asked the Court of Appeals to, in effect, enforce its ruling from February 2010 in the pay cases and force the Legislature to consider the raise issue independently of other legislation (NYLJ, Nov. 19). Mr. Bezanson called the pay commission legislation a "good first step," but said yesterday he and Mr. Smith will continue to pursue their case. "If this achieves what they say it will achieve, it will extend an 11-year pay freeze to 13 years," Mr. Bezanson said in an interview. "There has been really punishing harm done to the judges. So the litigation will have to proceed." The lawyers, representing the plaintiff judges in Larabee v. Governor, said they were also seeking to have the judges collect damages from the state for the Legislature's refusal to approve a pay bill. The Court of Appeals made its ruling in Chief Judge v. Governor, Larabee v. Governor and a third case brought by judges, Maron v. Silver. Joel Stashenko can be contacted at


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

And honest Judge should be paid triple and protected under the Endangered Species Act

Anonymous said...

Less to count.

Anonymous said...

What a joke.

How many laws, rules, organizations, associations, committees, hearings and any other name they can come up with, has been created over the past umpteen years to deal with ethics violations and corruption.

The only thing that changes, is that it keeps getting worse.

It's only when one of their cronies is past their usefulness that they finally throw them under the bus.

Why don't they clean up the corruption and then see what happens? They already know that by continuing to do what they have been doing, they are not getting what they want, so if their so smart, why don't they try something different, like being honest?

They may be surprised at how that would go over.

Anonymous said...


On Law Day; 2010 Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman spoke to an audience comprised mostly of legal practitioners, asserting that judicial salaries must be raised “for the societal value of the work they perform and their incredible dedication to the rule of law and the well-being of the citizens of New York. He said ‘judges are confronting ever burgeoning dockets with cases more complex and demanding and an escalating number of litigants appearing without counsel.

He further lamented ‘New Yorkers' ability to live the American dream is in question, that more than ever the Judiciary plays a unique and critical role in holding together the fabric of society and our way of life, fostering the rule of law, protecting individual liberties, and meeting the constitutional mandate to provide Equal Justice for all.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

If you are going to be a crook making only $150,000 a year, you are going to be a crook making $300,00 a year.

The only thing that is accomplished with giving a judge 350,000 is to make the job more desirable, and therefore tempt them to obey their political masters that have them appointed.

Face it, the majority of those that go on the bench are too lazy to go out in the world and make a living. Nice job, a lot of prestige, and everybody kisses your butt.

I have an old friend that sought and received a federal judgeship. He is very bright and a credit to the Bench. He got married later in life and had new responsibilites to his new family. He resigned to go out into the private sector. He brings in at least a couple of million a year.

Another 100 or 200 thousand a year would not have made a difference.

A Pox On Them All said...

To quote William Buckley, "I'd rather have the first 200 persons in Manhattan phone book ...," or paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt, "In 9 out of 10 cases they'd be better off dead and in the tenth case don't ask to many questions."
If there were honest judges, why doesn't the Appellate Division or the Second Circuit act against the judicial and lawyer corruption they routinely see?
The quality of NY judges is best explained by,"all evil needs to triumph is for 'good' people to do nothing." Power corrupts; money corrupts. Show me the good appellate judge who called out an evil judge? A good judge who does nothing is good for nothing.
Diogenes couldn't stand the stench at the courthouse. Reward evil and corruption and get more evil and corruption with our own money.

Anonymous said...

LOL@1:48 PM
Less to count."

So true...

Anonymous said...

EXPOSE HONEST LAWYERS AND JUDGES WHAT AN EXCELLENT IDEA, except one thing once you've been exposed to a corrupt one, it is the most difficult task ever getting Justice after that!



One of the worst experiences you can have is to be reminded unexpectedly of a personal tragedy. This just happened to me.

I opened a file draw and inadvertently pulled out a “Congratulations” letter from the clerk of a Federal District Court in Louisiana, welcoming me, as a new officer of the court.

I remember the sense of elation and anticipation I felt when I first received this item, years ago.

That was before I discovered that the Canons of Judicial Ethics mean nothing, and the Judicial Complaint Rules mean less than nothing.

I no longer have a law license.

My three licenses were suspended after I filed a confidential complaint of misconduct against a federal district judge, who publicized my name as the lawyer, who had filed a confidential complaint of misconduct against him.

This maneuver by the judge of course destroyed my effectiveness in either litigating or settling the matter at hand.

More than two years later, I was prosecuted by the Louisiana Disciplinary Counsel for having brought the confidential complaint against the federal judge.

I was prosecuted successfully, of course; both of the lawyers on the three-person committee who adjudicated the complaint against me, were members of the lawyer organization who had gifted the judge. (This was one of several of my complaints about this judge – that he took gifts and did favors for his lawyer pals.)

The lawyers who found me guilty of misconduct of course knew what I should have known:

If you expect a judicial complaint to be taken seriously, you live in a world of illusion and delusion.

The attorneys who found me to be unethical for complaining about an unethical judge, practice before the very judge about whom I had complained. They knew there was no actual issue to be decided when it came to either punishing an officer of the federal courts for fling a truthful complaint about a judge versus stating, candidly and honestly, that the judge had done what I said he had done.

I discovered, at the cost of my law licenses, in three states (Louisiana, Hawaii, Maryland), that no one associated with the legal system is going to criticize a federal district judge for flouting the judicial complaint rules. Why not? Those rules are not enforced by the Circuit Judges who are theoretically supposed to supervise the conduct of the judges below. The Circuit Judges set the tone and it is a very low tone.

I was reminded of all this when I opened that file and found my “congratulations” letter together with my certificate of admission. I won’t be needing these items any more and don’t need to be surprised by them again. I put them in another file – a round one.

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See Video of Senator John L. Sampson's 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption

The first hearing, held in Albany on June 8, 2009 hearing is on two videos:

               Video of 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption
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