The Atlantic Legal Foundation has undertaken a study of judicial compensation in New York State. The study will focus on whether the current level of compensation for New York State judges impacts the State’s economy and business community.
Judicial compensation in New York is a timely issue in light of Chief Judge Judith Kaye’s suit against the Governor and State Legislature, filed in April, 2008. The impetus for that litigation was the fact that judges in New York have not received a salary increase in ten years. Because New York is the financial and commercial capital of the United States and arguably the world, the Atlantic Legal Foundation believes that it is important to examine whether the current level of judicial compensation affects the business community and the health of the State economy.
Claims have been made that New York ranks 49th among the states in judicial compensation, accounting for cost of living. The argument has been made that the current level of compensation impacts both the diversity of the bench and the quality of judicial decision making because some attorneys from the private sector, with significant expertise and experience in commercial issues, cannot afford to leave private practice to join the bench. This may have an impact on the quality of decisions handed down in commercial cases, especially complex litigation, thereby increasing the cost of litigation due to delays, errors and appeals. The Atlantic Legal Foundation has made no determinations as to any of these claims but believes that they are worthy of serious consideration.
William H. Slattery, President of the Atlantic Legal Foundation, stated, We recognize that much has been written on judicial compensation in New York. We do not intend to duplicate prior work. Rather, we intend to focus on the impact of judicial compensation on the business community and the State’s economy.
While conducting this study, the Foundation intends to discuss judicial compensation issues with representatives of the three branches of the State government as well as leaders of the business community, to elicit their views. The Atlantic Legal Foundation previously studied the structure and organization of the New York State courts. In March, 2005, the Foundation issued a report concluding that the complex and confusing structure of the State courts negatively affected the State’s economy by increasing litigation costs to businesses.