Pay raise for judges earns few local comments

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 9, 2003

Alabama judges’ received a salary increase by 1.25 percent, while court layoffs continue.

The pay raise came as a shock to some due to the recent court layoffs. Many areal counties were severely effected including Marengo and Sumter counties.

Probate Judge Cindy Nielsen isn’t affected directly since her salary comes from the county, however she did not express dissent.

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“I don’t have any comment,” she said. “The raise doesn’t affect me.”

However, others are affected. Many court employees will lose or have already lost their jobs, including, Ellen Brooks, whose job in the Marengo County Courthouse was eliminated on Nov. 26.

Marengo County Circuit Clerk Rusty Nichols, did not comment on the judicial pay raises. Other court workers in the area also declined comment because of their close working relationship with judges.

The raise was set to be given annually, as the result of a law that went into effect in 1999, with the intention to link judges’ pay with experience.

According to State Rep. Bobby Singleton – whose term began after the 1999 legislature was passed – believes the salary raise was part of a “phased-in raise, with a cut off point.”

Singleton also understands this to be the end of the cycle of pay raises for judges.

Others believe a larger issue exists.

State Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, used the pay raise for judges as part of his argument in the lack of state revenue.

“Alabama collects less taxes per person than any state in the Union, therefore, it’s a clear case of it not being enough money.”

In February, when the Alabama Legislature convenes, some believe state senators and representatives will broach the subject of raising taxes.

According to Sanders, the state has two options: Either cut back on services rendered or raise more revenue through taxes.

Despite the government funding problems throughout Alabama, one group of state workers has no salary complaint.

Judges in Alabama are among the highest paid in the United States.