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SACRAMENTO � Lawmakers are poised to give state judges an 8.5 percent pay hike over two years and add at least 25 new judgeships starting next year. Legislative budget-writers met over the weekend and approved the tentative spending plan for the courts. Court administrators had originally sought an immediate 8.5 percent raise as well as 50 new judicial positions in 2007. But judicial leaders hailed the compromise numbers as “a good package.” “We are very, very happy to get started on some of the needs of the courts,” said Kate Howard, who heads the Administrative Office of the Courts’ Sacramento office. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Terry Friedman, who is also president of the California Judges Association, called the pay raise “excellent news that’s long overdue for many reasons and will help especially in recruiting the best and brightest and most diverse candidates to the bench.” Receiving the raise over two years instead of one is no big deal, he said. The 8.5 percent pay raise would be added to the statutory increase judges already receive annually, a rate that legislative analysts expect will be slightly less than 4 percent this year. Trial judges currently earn $149,160. “We recognize that the legislative process is one of give and take and compromise.” A vote of the full Legislature on the budget conference committee’s recommendations is scheduled for Thursday, and Republicans are already balking at some of the majority Democrats’ proposals. Republicans � and many Democrats in the state Senate � want to create 50 judgeships in 2007, as originally proposed in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s January budget. A Senate budget subcommittee composed of two Democrats and one Republican voted unanimously on Saturday to include money for 50 new positions. An Assembly subcommittee rejected the Senate plan. “Our position is, we want the 50,” said Senate Minority Leader Dick Ackerman, R- Tustin. “I was quite surprised to see the 25 come out of the conference committee.” But Assembly Democrats have balked at a higher number, in part, because they don’t want to give the Republican governor that many judicial picks. Asked how the conference committee reached the compromise number of 25 judges, Assembly Budget Committee Chairman John Laird, D-Santa Cruz, simply said “a lot of reasons.” Asked what those reasons were, Laird said, “It’s my job to advocate for the Assembly’s position.” Laird and other Democratic leaders say they’re still negotiating with the governor and legislative Republicans in an attempt to approve a final budget by the often-missed constitutional deadline of June 15. Although a budget vote is scheduled in the Legislature Thursday, final language is usually hammered out in a closed-door meeting of the Big Five � the governor and party leaders from both houses. On the issue of additional judges, “We’ll leave it to the Big Five to put it on the table and go from there,” Laird said. Union leaders said they were pleased with budget language that will require the judiciary to report on how it spends money on staffing, a provision they say will lead to the hiring of additional courtroom staff. “We think it was a fair resolution � fair for the employees and fair for the courts,” said Michelle Castro, a lobbyist for the Service Employees International Union, which represents court employees in 32 counties. The proposed budget also includes $10 million for expanding interpreter services to civil cases, as well as several million dollars for self-help programs around the state. Members of the California Judges Association will meet in Sacramento next Tuesday to lobby lawmakers. Although it’s unclear whether the governor and legislators will have struck a budget deal by then, Friedman said members are ready to push for the full allotment of 50 judges. Twenty-five judgeships “is a start,” he said. “But the need is so desperate in many parts of the state that it’s imperative for the judiciary to continue to [lobby] for additional positions.”

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