New Jersey’s justices, judges, cabinet officers and county prosecutors could soon see salary increases under a bill that appears ready for quick movement in Trenton.
The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on Monday is scheduled to hold hearings on S-1229, which would give members of the judiciary $8,000 raises over the next three years, and then provide for raises based on changes in the Consumer Price Index.
The bill is sponsored by Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester; Budget and Appropriations Committee Chairman Paul Sarlo, D-Bergen; and Senate Judiciary Chairman Nicholas Scutari, D-Union.
Sweeney said in a statement: “We need to raise the salaries of New Jersey judges, county prosecutors and cabinet-level officials because it is the right thing to do to attract the best and the brightest to key, public service positions. Compensation for judges and senior state officials will never compete with salaries in the private sector—nor should that be a goal. But salaries for New Jersey’s judges—whose independence and quality are among the finest in the nation—have been losing ground against the private sector, their counterparts in the federal judiciary and neighboring states.”
The bill has the support of both the judiciary and the New Jersey State Bar Association.
“We fully understand the economic realities our state faces,” Chief Justice Stuart Rabner wrote in a letter dated Wednesday to the Legislature. “At the same time, the fact remains that New Jersey judges have not received any pay increase at all for all of nine years.”
Judiciary salaries have not changed since 2009. And because of 2011 statutory changes in the amount judges have to pay into their pension and health benefits systems, judges are taking home less pay than they were years ago, Rabner also noted.
“This bill offers a responsible and fair way to both address the serious issues we face today and to set a sensible course for the future,” Rabner said.
The Legislature last considered a pay raise for judges in 2016. However, the measure was tied to a provision that would have allowed Republican Gov. Chris Christie, following his failed attempt to win his party’s nomination for the presidency, to profit from an autobiography. The measure, after significant public protest, made it through various legislative committees but was never put to a full vote in either the Assembly or Senate.
Scutari, one of the prime sponsors of the pending bill, said the Legislature has been trying to boost judges’ pay raises for several years.
The bill, he said, has the support of the administration of new Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat.
Dan Bryant, a Murphy spokesman, declined to comment, saying the administration would not comment until a bill reached the governor’s desk.
Currently, the chief justice of the Supreme Court is paid $192,795 a year. Associate justices are paid $185,482; Appellate Division judges, $175,534; assignment judges, $171,73; and trial judges and Tax Court judges, $165,000.
Under the bill, the state’s 21 county prosecutors would receive the same pay as trial judges, and cabinet officers would see a salary increase from $141,000 to $175,000 a year.
As of Friday, there was no companion measure in the Assembly.
Thomas Prol, the immediate past president of the New Jersey State Bar Association, echoed Rabner’s statement on judicial pay.
“It is absolutely essential that New Jersey judges are properly compensated,” said Prol, of Sparta’s Laddey, Clark & Ryan.
*Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story contained an inaccuracy about how many years the $8,000 judicial pay raise would take to phase in.