Foundation Urges Increased Judicial Compensation in New York

Atlantic Legal has filed its report Adequate Compensation for Judges is Essential for New Yorks Business and Economy with the Commission on Judicial Compensation. The Commissions recommendation will determine whether pay increases (first in more than a decade) will be awarded unless its recommendations are rejected by the Legislature.

To read the Foundations letter to the Commissioners, click here. To read the report, click here.

Foundation Urges Increased Judicial Compensation in New York

July 22, 2011

Hon. William C. Thompson, Jr.
Commission on Judicial Compensation
c/o Siebert Brandford Shank & Co., L.L.C
100 Wall Street, 18th Floor
New York, New York 10005

Dear Chairman Thompson:

Adequate compensation for judges is essential for New Yorks business and economy. To protect our economy and to enable our business community to function efficiently, the Atlantic Legal Foundation urges the Commission on Judicial Compensation to take decisive action now to correct the current inadequacy of judicial salaries in New York.

The Atlantic Legal Foundation has issued the enclosed report regarding the impact of the level of compensation of the New York Judiciary on the States economy and business community. This subject is of particular importance in light of New Yorks position as the financial and commercial capital of the United States and arguably the world, and New Yorks troubled current economic environment. The Foundations report concludes that inadequate judicial compensation adversely affects New Yorks economy.

The Atlantic Legal Foundation, now in its thirty-second year, is a non-profit, non-partisan organization with a history of advocating for limited, effective government, free enterprise, individual liberty, school choice, and sound science in the courtroom. Its Board of Directors includes current and former General Counsels of nineteen major corporations. Other members of ALFs Board of Directors and its Advisory Council have substantial responsibility for business litigation at major law firms.

In preparing the enclosed report, the Foundation reviewed relevant statistics, compared judicial salaries in New York to compensation of other relevant groups, and identified publicly-available documents that discuss relevant topics. While the public record on this issue is compelling, much of the basis for the reports conclusions is the collective experience and judgment of the Foundations Board of Directors which includes literally hundreds of years of responsibility for business litigation at major corporations and law firms as well as observation of the capabilities and performance of hundreds of judges.

New York State judges have not received a salary increase in twelve years. There is widespread agreement that the cause of this extraordinary delay has nothing to do with the merits or the judges need for a raise but instead is unrelated political congestion in Albany. As a result,
New York States judicial compensation lags behind the compensation of other New York government, non-profit, and private sector positions.
The Foundations conclusions in its report include the following:
judicial compensation in New York is in no sense competitive and is not adequate to continue to attract and retain jurists of the highest skill and experience; most notably, seasoned commercial lawyers in private practice are no longer attracted to the New York Judiciary in adequate numbers;

lack of judicial experience and expertise in commercial matters can have a negative impact on the quality of decisions handed down in commercial cases, especially complex litigation. Thus, low compensation will likely reduce the quality of decisions in commercial cases and may increase the costs of litigation due to errors, appeals, and delays;

the business community needs an efficient, reliable judiciary to resolve controversies. Without an experienced, diverse and skilled judiciary, business activity will be diverted elsewhere, companies will incorporate or move elsewhere because they will lose faith in the ability of the States judicial system to resolve commercial lawsuits promptly and competently, and New York States economy will suffer;

predictability of judicial decisions is essential to the business community because companies need to be able to anticipate the legal consequences of their business decisions to avoid litigation. If judges are not experienced and expert in commercial matters, the predictability of the judicial decision-making process will suffer and more lawsuits will result, diverting the time and attention of businesses from their primary objectives and hampering their ability to generate revenues and profits. Needless business litigation ultimately has a negative impact on the ability of businesses to pay taxes and to fund payrolls; and

adequate compensation for New York State judges will benefit the business community and the States economy.
The Atlantic Legal Foundation urges the Commission on Judicial Compensation to take into account the serious impact of inadequate judicial compensation on the New York economy and business in making its recommendations.

Respectfully submitted,

Briscoe R. Smith
Senior Vice President & Counsel
cc: Commission Members