Emily Goodman, Federal Judges, Money, Politics, Skaddenfreude, State Judges

What About State Judicial Pay? Some Celebrity Correspondence from Justice Emily Goodman

Emily Jane Goodman Emily J Goodman Justice Emily J Goodman Judge Emily Goodman Above the Law.jpgWe agree that federal judicial pay needs to rise. But despite our sympathy for the cause, we’re getting tired of hearing about the need to raise salaries for federal judges. (The latest voice to weigh in on the debate, former Federal Reserve Chair Paul Volcker, is pretty random.)
So enough about federal judicial compensation. What about salaries for state court judges?
Yes, sometimes we poke good-natured fun at members of state judiciaries. But in all seriousness, state judges play a crucial role in the administration of justice — in the aggregate, arguably a larger role than federal judges (including the Supremes).
Many state court judges work long hours and perform excellent work on the bench. Many are widely admired for their diligence and their competence. And yet their pay, like that of federal judges, ain’t so hot.
Consider this email, which we publish with her permission, from the Honorable Emily Jane Goodman, a justice of the New York Supreme Court:

From: Emily Goodman
Sent: Monday, February 12, 2007 11:49 AM
To: AboveTheLaw Tips
Cc: Justice Emily Goodman
Subject: AboveTheLaw Tip

About the LIST OF SHAME, why not mention the salaries of NYS judges (of which I am one)?

Emily Jane Goodman

This message may have been intercepted and read by government agencies including the FBI, CIA, NSA without notice or warrant or knowledge of sender or recepient.

(By the way, we love that little disclaimer at the end about warrentless communications monitoring.)
We followed up with Justice Goodman, who offered some additional thoughts:

[A] NYS Supreme Court justice is paid $136,700 per year. We have not had a raise in 8 or 9 years; we’ve had only 2 in 2 decades! There are no COLAS, no bonuses, no outside employment. (Compare and contrast with a first year associate — you do the math!)

This is indeed troubling. Remember Dan Alterman’s estimate of $47,000, for the value of the billable hours spent on the Charney v. Sullivan & Cromwell hearing — in New York Supreme Court, of all places? Two days’ worth of such hearings — a morning hearing, and an afternoon one — would easily eclipse the annual salary of the jurist hearing the case.
More from Justice Goodman on state judicial pay, after the jump.

Justice Goodman explains why salaries for New York Supreme Court justices are so low:

The reason: The legislature controls the purse strings and refuses to enact an increase in judicial salaries without raising their own. Since they have been so often described as “dysfunctional,” apparently they have considered it impolitic, and not likely to be well-received by their constituents, to raise their own salaries. So on the salary issue the judges are stuck in bed with the legislators, but we want a divorce!

HA! This is excellent, funny, lively writing. It’s too bad most judges aren’t such engaging prose stylists. Then again, most judges aren’t graduates of Columbia Journalism School, who also write for The Nation.
Justice Goodman continues:

[Separating judicial salaries from legislative ones] has proved to be impossible in recent years. Enter E. Spitzer who has included an item in his budget for judicial salaries, but that would have to be adopted by the legislature. Also, there has been money in the OCA budget for judicial salary increases, but that also needs a legislative enactment to trigger the release of the money.

There is talk of a Commission to establish what judges’, legislators and certain officials should be paid, but that, too, needs the consent of the Legislature. I say, SHOW ME THE MONEY.


This message may have been intercepted and read by government agencies including the FBI, CIA, NSA without notice or warrant or knowledge of sender or recepient.

Hear hear! We hope that some public attention is paid to the issue of low state judicial salaries, so progress can be made on this front. We will do what we can here at ATL to push the issue.
Finally, we thank Justice Goodman for her message. We get such a thrill from judicial email in our inbox!
P.S. In case you’re counting, Justice Goodman is the third judge to write in to us here at Above the Law. Our first two judicial correspondents were Judge Morris Arnold, of the Eighth Circuit, and Judge Alex Kozinski, of the Ninth Circuit. How neat!
Justice Emily Jane Goodman [chambers information]
Justice Emily Jane Goodman [bio]
Earlier: Flying the Friendly, Federal Judicial Skies: An Open Letter from Judge Alex Kozinski
Wherein We Receive An Email from Celebrity Judge Morris Arnold

(hidden for your protection)

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