Judicial Pay, Court Funding Top State of the Judiciary Remarks
Judicial pay and court funding were highlighted in remarks made by Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor during her State of the Judiciary address on August 28 where she spoke to nearly 300 judges at the Ohio Judicial Conference in Columbus.
Chief Justice O’Connor said judicial salaries have not been adjusted since 2008 when a statue providing for annual adjustments expired.
“Choosing a career in public service shouldn’t mean being saddled with a stagnant salary for the entire time you serve on the bench. This amount of time without a pay raise is far too long,” Chief Justice O’Connor said.
Chief Justice O’Connor said she’s worried judges will switch to private practice to make a better living and that attorneys won’t even consider becoming a judge due to current judges’ salaries.
“It is extremely troubling and this translates into some real loses within the judicial family across this state,” Chief Justice O’Connor said.
The chief justice also addressed court funding during her speech. She said the Task Force on the Funding of Ohio’s Courts has estimated that it costs more than $1 billion to operate the state’s courts.
“At first glance, that may seem like a lot – $1.1 billion, but with a closer look and in comparison with other sections of government it truly is not,” Chief Justice O’Connor said. “Given the constitutional and statutory obligations required of Ohio courts and their programmatic initiatives, it’s not a stretch to say quite possibly that Ohio courts are underfunded.”
In addition, Chief Justice O’Connor explained about the 11-member Task Force on Access to Justice that helps identify obstacles for low-income and disadvantaged Ohioans going through the judicial system.
“I urged the task force to broaden the definition to not only include those who cannot afford an attorney, but also to those who encounter other barriers to the legal system, such as language barriers,” Chief Justice O’Connor said.
The judicial branch should be proud, the chief justice concluded, for its successful and innovative programs that better serve Ohioans. She urged judges to share these success stories with their communities.