Louisiana judges have taken a pay cut as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and Hurricane Ida. Their supplemental salary has been reduced because the court systems are taking in less money through fines and fees as disasters have scaled back judicial operations, according to staff from the Louisiana Judicial Compensation Commission.
State. Rep . Robby Carter, D-Amite, said he’d been getting questions from judges who wanted to know why their supplemental pay was changing so much.
“If a district judge asks me, ‘I took a pay cut last month, why?’ I need to be able to tell him why,” Carter said at the commission’s meeting Monday.
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District judges currently receive an extra $800 per month in supplemental pay on top of their regular salary of over $153,00 per year, according to the commission’s staff. But that figure was higher, around $900 monthly, prior to 2020, and has been as low as $400 monthly during earlier periods of the pandemic.
The judges’ monthly supplemental pay fluctuates based on the amount of fines and fees the court systems collect. When courts aren’t operating at full capacity, the judges’ supplemental pay can drop, commission staff said.
Carter then worried about legislation he’s drafting, saying it could impact judicial salaries. Under the proposed bill, people with no children and no contention over property might be able to get a divorce by affidavit, instead of going through the typical court process and paying the associated fees.
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“I can see that would take a hit on the [judges’] fund,” Carter said.
Court funding in the state has long been controversial, with lawmakers complaining about a lack of judicial transparency on the courts’ spending. Studies have found that Louisiana relies more on resident fees and fines than other states to pay for its judicial system.
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