Whether we like it or not, a fact of life is that the best lawyers are very well paid. Certainly, we would like our state justices to be among the best lawyers in the state. But today’s near-unanimous decision to amend the constitution to reverse a Supreme Court decision regarding judges benefits flies in the face of attracting the best of the best.
Another fact of life is that judges’ salaries are limited by law. The best lawyers on the state’s courts could all do better financially at a private firm or as lobbyists. Moreover, judges are also restricted from engaging in supplemental employment.
Now, Assembly members John McKeon, Peter Barnes, and Grace Spencer are working to rectify this situation. They have introduced a proposed constitutional amendment, modeled after the Federal court system, which will allow judges to receive additional income up to 15% of their salaries through outside ventures. These ventures must not pose a conflict or be directly related to their judicial duties. Teaching is one such example.
As with the Federal system, rules would be established which would ensure that this supplemental employment be unrelated to their judicial duties, and honoraria would not be permitted.
The compensation received by the State University’s football coach is competitive with that of his peers. By law, we can’t make judges’ salaries competitive with those of other top lawyers. But this proposal helps close that gap and should be given positive consideration.
Governor Chris Christie: $175,000
Chief Justice Stuart Rabner: $192,795
Rutgers Head Football Coach Kyle Flood: $750,000
County Assignment Judge (typical): $171,000
Rejected Supreme Court Nominee Phillip Kwon at Port Authority: $216,000
Sources: APP.com Data Universe, NJ.com
Correction (10:03 PM). The original article’s third paragraph implied that the bill had not yet been introduced. It was introduced in January and has been referred to the Assembly Judiciary Committee