February 23, 2022
By Bill Raftery
A frequently asked question that NCSC receives pertains to multiple levels of compensation in the courts. While the Judicial Salary Survey provides information on how much judges make, how much court employees and staff make is much more difficult to ascertain and to offer comparisons across states, or even within a state, for several critical reasons.
The first is title comparability. Consider something as simple as asking “How much does a Clerk II make?”
- In State A, Clerk II refers to a particular position pay band that exists throughout that state in all the state’s courts.
- In State B, the position/pay band “Clerk II” does not exist.
- In State C, Clerk II is paid for by the local government, so the pay varies widely. Further, Clerk II may exist in some counties but not all.
The second is position comparability. Even if two states both have “Clerk II” positions, it does not necessarily follow that those clerks are performing the same functions, the same tasks, or even have the same requirements. This can even vary within a state where local governments set their employment systems.
In-state variation can manifest in the third challenge to cross-state comparison: geographic adjustments. An example is Virginia’s system, as seen in this 2018 report. Table-1 (State Funded Classification and Pay Structure) and Appendix B (Side-by-side Comparison of Court Compensation by Locality) demonstrate that factors in both local supplements and regional adjustments can have impacts on how the same position can be compensated differently, even within the same state. Note: NOVA = Northern Virginia. New York’s Unified Court System offers a location pay differential for NYC-metro area positions as well.
How does NCSC respond to this question? NCSC uses external market data for benchmarks and then uses a high-level point factor system to match non-benchmark jobs to the benchmarks. NCSC’s 2018 Kansas Appellate and District Court Compensation Study enumerates four aspects to further determine staff compensation across states:
- Functional responsibilities;
- Scope and effect of decisions and action;
- Supervision exercised/scope of responsibility; and
- Problem solving and complexity of job duties.
To remain competitive with other courts, government agencies and the private sector, courts are looking to increase staff pay, especially in this time of the great resignation. Are you one of those states or localities? NCSC has a team that can analyze your positions and provide specialized updated compensation studies. Reach out to us at Knowledge@ncsc.org or call 800-616-6164 to put you in touch with our experts. Follow NCSC on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn or Vimeo.