WXXI Local Stories
Mon April 9, 2007
State's Top Judge Threatens Lawsuit Over Lack of Pay Raises
By Karen DeWitt
Albany, New York –
The usually mild mannered Chief Judge of the State Court of Appeals, Judge Judith Kaye, says she's "infuriated" that Governor Spitzer and the legislature once again denied judges a pay raise in the new state budget. She condemned the secrecy of the recently concluded budget talks, and accused lawmakers of holding the issue "hostage" to other proposals, like legislative pay raises.
"We will not remain docile in the face of the shabby treatment the Judiciary of the State of New York has received," Kaye said.
Judge Kaye is threatening to take a number of steps, including suing the governor and legislature if no judicial pay raises are adopted by the end of the legislative session in June. Kaye says she's considering the lawsuit, even though she admits it would be painful and could paralyze the government. But the Chief Judge says the current situation has been "totally...demoralizing" for the entire judiciary.
The lawsuit would seek to have the pay raises implemented retroactively for the past two years. Kaye says each of the last two state budgets included proposals for the salary hikes, but were never implemented.
The state's top Judge is also seeking advisory opinions from the Attorney General and State Comptroller, on whether she can unilaterally raise judge's pay by herself.
Kaye says she thought about raising benefits for judges to compensate for the lack of pay raises, but decided against it. She says some judges were pushing for a work slowdown, or even closing the courts, but she discouraged them from going that route.
Judge Kaye is also calling for face-to-face meetings with the governor and legislative leaders, and has asked to address rank and file lawmakers by meeting with party conferences, in hopes of winning the raises for the judges before she has to take any more drastic actions.