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Commission recommends pay increase for AZ judges

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Posted at 8:33 AM, Dec 22, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-22 11:43:57-05
A state commission has recommended raising the salaries of Arizona judges by $15,000 annually.
 
The Arizona Capitol Times reports that the Commission on Salaries for Elective State Officers unanimously recommended the pay hike Monday for judges in Superior Court, the Court of Appeals and Arizona Supreme Court.
 
If Gov. Doug Ducey and the Legislature sign off on the recommendations, they wouldn't go into effect until at least January 2017.
 
Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Scott Bales said a $15,000 increase would be slightly above inflation since 2009 for trial court judges, and slightly below inflation for appellate and Supreme Court judges. He urged the commission to recommend an increase of at least $15,000 for all judges.
 
"Arizona enjoys a national reputation for the quality of its judiciary. But to continue to maintain the quality of our courts, we need to be able to recruit and retain capable individuals who are going to commit to working on courts as a career," Bales said.
 
A report compiled by the Arizona Department of Administration says the state ranks slightly below average in pay for Superior Court, appellate court and state Supreme Court salaries. Trial court judges make a salary of $145,000. Judges on the Court of Appeals earn $150,000, while Arizona Supreme Court justices make $155,000.
 
The governor must make recommendations to the Legislature regarding judicial and executive salaries, though he isn't bound by the commission's recommendations.
 
Ducey spokesman Daniel Scarpinato wouldn't say whether the governor was considering recommending the commission's proposed pay increase, saying only that the Governor's Office is working on its proposed budget for fiscal year 2017.
 
"We will consider all requests. The executive budget proposal will be released on January 15," Scarpinato said via email.
 
Commissioner Dennis Mitchem lamented that the commission's recommendations frequently go unheeded by the Legislature and governor.
The last time judges saw a raise was in January 2009.
 
In voting to recommend judicial pay raises, the commission was taking care of unfinished business from 2014.
 
Last year, the commission voted to send an $11,000 legislative pay raise to the ballot, which voters roundly defeated in the November 2014 election.