In reaching its decision to reinstate pay raises for judges across our state, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court did what it should do in every case. It weighed competing arguments on complex issues and arrived at a comprehensive decision based on the law.
The Pennsylvania Constitution prohibits reducing judges’ compensation during their terms of office. At the 1967-68 Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention, it was the Pennsylvania Bar Association – the state’s largest association of lawyers – that recommended the applicable compensation provisions in the state constitution. Those provisions only allow reductions in the judges’ pay when compensation of all salaried officers of the commonwealth is diminished for the purpose of relieving dire financial circumstances. This constitutional provision, approved by the citizens of the commonwealth, is based on the sound, fundamental concept that judicial salaries should not be subject to political whims.
Judges’ salaries should not be determined based on whether a pay raise is favored by the public or the political process. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to tie the increases in the salaries of Pennsylvania judges to the salaries of the federal judicial system. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision achieved this important goal.
A strong, competent and independent court is essential to sound and impartial judgment under the law. The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the legislative enactment regarding judicial compensation is a sound one, and the public should embrace the decision with confidence.
Kenneth J. Horoho, Jr.
President, Pennsylvania Bar Association
Editor’s note: Founded in 1895, the Pennsylvania Bar Association exists to promote justice, professional excellence and respect of the law; improve public understanding of the legal system; facilitate access to legal services; and serve the 29,000 lawyers who are members of the association