OLR Bill Analysis

sSB 31

AN ACT ESTABLISHING A COMMISSION ON JUDICIAL COMPENSATION.

SUMMARY:

This bill creates a nine-member Commission on Judicial Compensation to make recommendations on judicial compensation that are to have the force of law unless changed by statute or resolution.

Specifically, the bill requires the commission to:

1. examine the adequacy of and need for adjustments to compensation for judges, family support magistrates, senior judges, judge trial referees, and family support referees;

2. make compensation recommendations every four years, beginning by January 2, 2013; and

3. report its findings to the governor, legislature, and chief justice.

Regardless of compensation set in statute, the bill gives the report's compensation recommendations the force of law, effective on July 1 of the year its report is due unless modified or abrogated by statute or resolution before May 1 of the year the report is due. (A resolution, unlike a statute, does not require the governor's approval after adoption by the legislature. )

The bill would also affect the pay of workers' compensation commissioners whose salaries are tied to those paid to Superior Court judges without reference to the current judges' salary statute (CGS 31-277).

But the salaries of the probate court administrator and probate court judges and the cap on compensation of senior judges and referees are tied to the Superior Court judges' salaries as set in CGS 51-47 (see CGS 45a-75, 45a-95a, and 51-47b). Since the bill does not change the Superior Court judges' salary statute but provides a procedure to override the statute, the bill's provisions do not appear to affect the probate court administrator's or probate judges' salaries or the maximum compensation for senior judges or referees.

The bill removes the existing Compensation Commission's responsibility to make recommendations for judges' compensation, pensions, workers' compensation, and other benefits, leaving it responsible for making recommendations regarding compensation for legislators and constitutional officers. By law, this commission's recommendations are advisory and require enactment.

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2012

MEMBERS

The bill requires commission members to be appointed as follows:

1. three by the governor;

2. one each by the Senate president pro tempore, House speaker, the Senate minority leader, and the House minority leader; and

3. two by the Supreme Court chief justice.

The bill requires appointing authorities to attempt to appoint members with experience in financial management, human resources administration, or determining executive compensation.

The bill limits members to only one four-year term, but they may serve until a successor is appointed and qualified. Appointing authorities can fill a vacancy for the unexpired portion of the term.

The bill requires the commission to elect its chairperson from among the members. A majority is a quorum.

FACTORS TO CONSIDER FOR RECOMMENDATIONS

The bill requires the commission to consider all appropriate factors when making compensation recommendations, including the:

1. state's overall economic climate;

2. inflation rate;

3. compensation of other states' and federal judges;

4. compensation of attorneys employed by government agencies, academic institutions, and private and nonprofit organizations;

5. interest in attracting highly qualified and experienced attorneys to serve in judicial capacities;

6. compensation adjustments for state employees during the applicable fiscal years; and

7. state's ability to fund compensation increases.

JUDICIAL OFFICIALS AND COMPENSATION

The table below lists the judicial officials for which the commission must make compensation recommendations and their compensation under current law.

Position

Current Compensation

Supreme Court Chief Justice

$ 175,645

Chief Court Administrator (if a judge or justice)

$ 168,783

Supreme Court Associate Justice

$ 162,520

Appellate Court Chief Judge

$ 160,722

Appellate Court Judge

$ 152,637

Deputy Chief Court Administrator (if a judge)

$ 149,853

Superior Court Judge

$ 146,780

Appellate, Judicial District, or Chief Administrative Judge

$ 1,000 in addition to judicial salary

Senior Judge or Judge Trial Referee

$ 220 per day

Chief Family Support Magistrate

$ 127,782

Family Support Magistrate

$ 121,615

Family Support Referee

$ 190 per day

Under the bill, the commission's recommendations would have no affect on judges' and family support magistrates' retirement contributions and benefits (under CGS 51-49f, 51-50b, and 46b-233a) because they are based on the salaries set in statute (CGS 51-47 and 46b-231 respectively).

It appears the commission's compensation recommendations under the bill can affect judges' longevity payments provisions as set in statute but not those in statute for family support magistrates (see CGS 46b-233).

COMMITTEE ACTION

Judiciary Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

34

Nay

8

(03/26/2012)