The appellate opinion, written by Justice Peter Tom, says the state legislature played politics with judicial pay in violation of New York’s separation of powers doctrine. “Linkage, as employed in these circumstances, manifested an abandonment of any pretense to an objective consideration of judicial compensation unimpeded by extraneous political considerations,” Tom wrote (somewhat impenetrably). “These acts and their ramifications necessarily undermine the carefully constructed architecture of New York government.”
The judges who are plaintiffs in the case make $136,700, so even if they get a raise, it won’t put them on par with many young and inexperienced Big Law associates. Nonetheless, the judges’ lawyer, Thomas Bezanson (formerly of Chadbourne & Parke, now of Cohen & Gresser), told the New York Law Journal he was pleased with the ruling. “Today the state can celebrate the vindication of the separation of powers and judicial independence under the state constitution,” Bezanson said. “It’s a great day for the state, [the] constitution, [the] judiciary, and the people it serves.”
Amicus curiae in the case included The Association of Justice of The Supreme Court, represented by Stroock & Stroock & Lavan; The New York County Lawyers’ Association, represented by Suhana Han; and former chief judge Judith Kaye and the New York State Unified Court System, represented by Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz and Michael Colodner.