State commission denies judicial pay hike amid NY’s ‘extremely precarious’ financial outlook

For the second year in a row, a seven-member commission has denied pay raises to state Supreme Court justices and lawmakers, citing the impact of the COVID pandemic on New York’s “extremely precarious fiscal condition.”

The New York State Commission on Legislative, Judicial and Executive Compensation released their latest recommendation in a report Monday, after previously recommending against pay raises in 2019.

“Given the state’s extremely precarious fiscal condition the Commission is constrained from recommending salary increases for the next four year for judges, legislators, and executive branch officials,” wrote the commission, chaired by former New York City Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo.

The commission solicits public input and considers salary increases for state Supreme Court justices and New York City Housing Court judges, along with members of the legislative and executive branches, every four years — most recently in 2019. In April, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law an amendment authorizing the commission to again consider judicial pay less than a year after their initial recommendation.

Former New York City Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo chairs the New York State Commission on Legislative, Judicial and Executive Compensation. Photo: Brooklyn Eagle File

But over the ensuing seven months, the state’s financial outlook went from bad to worse, the commission wrote.

“Since the issuance of the 2019 Report New York’s financial condition has substantially deteriorated, due to the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, to a far greater degree than any commissioner could have predicted,” they wrote in their decision Monday.

The commission cited Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks’ imperative to cut 10 percent of the state’s judiciary budget, or $300 million. The Office of Court Administration has sought to accomplish that, in part, by terminating 46 judges over age 70, as well as several judicial staff members.

“Granting raises to public servants, no matter how much they might otherwise deserve them, is simply not possible at this time,” the commission wrote.–>

In addition to Cardozo, the commission features retired Appellate Justice Randall Eng. Cardozo and Eng had dissented from the five other commissioners and supported a cost of living adjustment for judges last year.

The other five commissioners include Mitra Hormozi, executive vice president and general Counsel for Revlon; Seymour Lachman, dean emeritus of the Hugh L. Carey Institute for Government Reform at Wagner College; Peter Madonia, chairman of the Belmont Business Improvement District; Jim Malatras, president of SUNY Empire State College; and Bob Megna, senior vice chancellor and chief operating officer of SUNY System Administration.

The members are appointed by Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

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