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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Cuomo Aide: Time Is Not Right to Raise Judges' Pay

Cuomo Aide: Time Is Not Right to Raise Judges' Pay
The New York Law Journal by Joel Stashenko  -  July 21, 2011

Although virtually all of the 33 speakers at yesterday's hearing advocated for an immediate and large pay raise for the state's 1,200 judges, Governor Cuomo's top budget adviser said the state cannot afford it, citing continuing budget shortfalls and the state's attempt to negotiate concessions with its other employees.

ALBANY, NY - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's top budget adviser said yesterday that New York state cannot afford raises for judges in the short term.  "I think the issue as we see it right now…is that the spending is not affordable," Robert Megna told the seven members of a judicial compensation commission established to consider whether state judges should get their first raises since Jan. 1, 1999.  Mr. Megna was one of 33 speakers at the commission's first and only hearing. Virtually all of them advocated for an immediate and large pay raise for the state's 1,200 judges.  But Mr. Megna cited the state's continuing budget shortfalls and its attempt to negotiate concessions with its other employees. Members of both the Civil Service Employees Association and the Public Employees Federation, which together represent about 120,000 workers, are currently weighing new contracts that include three-year wage freezes, unpaid week-long furloughs and greater employee pension and health insurance contributions.  Mr. Megna said an immediate pay raise on the order of the 40 percent or more that the Office of Court Administration and judicial groups are proposing to make up for judges' losses to inflation since 1999 would throw the state's pay scale "out of whack."  He also noted that state cabinet-level employees, legislators and statewide-elected officials, such as Mr. Cuomo himself, have not gotten raises since 1999. Mr. Megna described it as a conscious, long-term effort to keep salaries for top judges and state officials "relatively constant."  Mr. Megna observed that the state faces a $2.4 billion budget gap in the year beginning April 1, when raises for the judges would go into effect.  William C. Thompson Jr., Mr. Cuomo's choice as chairman of the commission, said after yesterday's hearing that Mr. Megna had touched on one aspect that commission members know they have to consider: the state's ability to pay for a judicial raise, if the panel recommends one.  "He gave a strong presentation," Mr. Thompson said of Mr. Megna's comments. "But we've all been aware of [the state's fiscal woes] as an element in our deliberations."  Other factors the commission is to consider before making its report by Aug. 29 are what judges on other federal and state benches earn and the effects of inflation on judges' salaries.  Advocates for a significant raise up front included the New York State Bar Association (Read Testimony), the New York City Bar (Read Submission), the New York County Lawyers' Association (Read Submission), the Fund for Modern Courts and New York City Corporation Counsel Michael A. Cardozo (Read Testimony).  The state's chief administrative judge, Ann Pfau, argued that the public's "trust and confidence" in the Judiciary will be maintained by paying judges a realistic wage that is in keeping with what federal judges in other states or associates at large law firms make.  Judith Kaye, former New York State Chief Judge, left, and Ann Pfau, chief administrative judge, testify before the commission.  "We strongly believe that any award should be immediate and complete—that is, it should not be staggered or phased in over a period of several years in light of the state's current fiscal difficulties," Judge Pfau said. "Such a phase-in could accomplish little and damage a good deal."  Asked after the hearing about Mr. Megna's comments, Judge Pfau repeated what she told the commission, that a raise would amount to about $77 million, a minute portion of the overall state budget of some $131 billion. Judge Pfau argued that judges have been unfairly shortchanged and that the current state fiscal crisis should not preclude the commission from recommending a raise that judges deserve.  "It is a problem that has been over 12 years in the making," she said in an interview. "If judges had received regular cost-of-living increases, I would agree with him [Mr. Megna]. But I think we are in a different situation, from my perspective."  Judge Pfau was among several witnesses who contended that by denying judges the raises since 1999, the state saved more than $500 million in salaries and benefits.  Judge Pfau said she was also surprised by Mr. Megna's comments suggesting that keeping judges' salaries —and those of top state bureaucrats and legislators—at a "relatively constant" level was a conscious policy decision. The Judiciary has argued that pay raise bills have failed annually because they have become unconstitutionally encumbered by debates on unrelated public policy matters such as government ethics bills. The Court of Appeals has agreed with that assessment.  The former chief judge of the state, Judith S. Kaye, now of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, implored the commission to recommend a raise for the sake of the independence of the judiciary, despite the state's rough fiscal circumstances.  "Raises for New York judges now?" she asked commission members. "Yes, raises for New York judges now."  Ms. Kaye sued the governor and Legislature while chief judge to force passage of a raise.  Mr. Cardozo argued that the lack of a pay raise is weakening both the Judiciary and state government.  He argued that the salary has made it difficult to attract qualified applicants for the bench. Senior public services attorneys, such as prosecutors and the ones in his own office, are reluctant to accept what would represent a pay cut, he said.  "This must be corrected," Mr. Cardozo said. "Now."


Anonymous said...

Sadly, you get what you pay for.....

Anonymous said...

Ann Pfau says the public's "trust and confidence" in the judiciary will be maintained if they get a raise - I don't understand the correlation.

I can provide her with documentary proof of what can only be explained as either egregious incompetence or corruption by a number of these justices who are seeking huge raises, there is no other rational or logical explanation. So, really, you think if they got paid more, Ms. Pfau, they would somehow change and become ethical - really?

Perhaps they were overpaid in 1999 in the first place. In other countries, they give legal competency tests, we should do that here.

And it is too easy to pass off judicial corruption as mere appealable error, the rules at CJC have to be amended to prevent this huge loophole.

Robert Megna was given permission by Cuomo to say that because the hand-writing is on the wall - when Bill Thompson was quoted as complimenting Megna by saying he gave compelling testimony, that was the tip-off.

William Thompson Sr., the chairman's father, was an appellate justice and his step-mother, Sybil Hart Cooper, was a supreme court justice. So really, is he the best choice Cuomo could come up with to be chairman of this commission?

And what a slanted article by the NYLJ, it is too obvious whose favor they are currying.


Stashenko is a crackwhore for the judiciary and a liar.

He writes:

"VIRTUALLY ALL of them advocated for an immediate and large pay raise for the state's 1,200 judges."

There were 33 witnesses. there were 8 witnesses in opposition and 25 in favor of a pay raise (all of them lawyers and judges).

8 out of 33 is nearly 24 percent of the witnesses, or about 1 in 4. One dissenter for every 3 toadies.

So how deep up his asshole did Stashenko have to reach to pull out the phrase "Virtually all"?

Can you imagine a sport writer describing a game with a 9 to 3 score: "Virtually all the points were scored by the Red Socks" without mentioning that the Yanks had 3 runs?

"Virtually all of the Earth's surface is covered by water"

The supporters (including the mummified Judith Kaye) all based their arguments on the premise that NY has the best judges in the world and that if they don;t get more money they will defect to big obscenely overpaid law firms. They provided NO EVIDENCE that NY judges were any better than any other judges anywhere else.

With the exception of the Budget director, all the opposing witnesses based their testimony on EVIDENCE that many if not most judges are corrupt and that there is no agency to separate the bad from the good, and that you simply don't raise the pay of employees that undermine their function.

Should we give a raise to firemen who are convicted of arson?

Watch the video of the hearings.

I tell the story of Sunny Sheu at around 2 hours and 7 minutes.

See how the Chairman tries to shut me up as I mention the Medical Examiner;s ruling of "blunt head trauma with skull fractures and brain injuries".

Als check out Elena Sassower's testimony and Raymond Zuppa's/

Now where the HELL was Frank Brady??? And where the HELL were the rest of the complainers on this blog who don't attend hearings?

If 16 more of you had shown up, we would have outnumbered the suits.

Put your actions where you your mouth is.

Anonymous said...

I say let the NY public decide on judicial raises...after they receive the reviews written about them by lawyers, employees and anyone who has had to deal with them....the only fair and just method.

Any judge who believes he/she is truly a real JUSTICE of the LAW... will receive one if we say so...accountability and ethics will have to be foremost.


It was wonderful that some people made that event, but maybe petitions signed by millions would be harder to toss aside...available on line for those who cannot travel, esp to the hell hole of Albany politics and commissions...a total joke of DEMOCRACY.

T Finnan said...

I testified about New York's dire financial condition and that State workers in Public Employees Federation negotiated to freeze wages for three years in a tentative, five-year contract. Cuomo claims to accept only $170,050 as his salary.

"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others, or judges deserve wage increases BUT you don't."
Or, New York's headed to default and the Judge's pay increase could be the final straw.

Written submission and blog post at

and New York's national rankings are in today's post

court victim said...

Bravo to the Budget Advisor! When will the Judges and attorneys have him fired? Bravo to all the people who have stood up against this obscenity (pay raises for the Judges and the court system) The Judges destroy both people and families without a care. there is no accountability or oversight and when you do bring in creditable information regarding criminal activities you are dismissed and get the run around or you windup dead like Sunny. This is a form of extortion.

Anonymous said...

The court employees tht were laid off. Do they think the judges should get more pay?
Do the teachers and firefighters that were alomost laid off. Do they think the judges should get more money?
Even Bloomberg the patron saint of the rich in new york sent some someone to lobby for judicial pay raises. This was not a far hearing. New York tax payers should have had fair notice of the hearings. This is nothing more than pollitical payback for endorsing Cuomo.
Cuomo should be ashamed of himself.

Anonymous said...

You notice how they never talk about the benifits package they get. I heard it is really good.
Told they should call it the Rolls Rocye of benifits. The panel was hand picked by Cuomo to give his friends more money.

Anonymous said...

@8:36 Cuomo can't see shame in the mirror his shill Fred Dicker holds up to admire himself. While Cuomo grins at his image in the mirror, Dicker keeps singing, "You're the Greatest of them all."
This commission would not exist except for Cuomo.

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