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FAQ: Judicial Salary Survey explained

February 8, 2023

By Dimarie Alicea-Lozada

The Judicial Salary Survey (JSS) is a biannual survey which started in 1974 at the request of the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators. State courts use the salary survey to request compensation increases based on regional or otherwise comparable state judicial salaries. It is sent to all state court administrators in the United States and its territories and updated twice per year. Survey questions include:

  • Is there a salary range for each of the three categories (general jurisdiction judges, intermediate appellate court judges, and court of last resort associate justices and chief justices)?
  • If so, what is that salary range?
  • What is the actual or median salary (if there is a range)?
  • When was the last time they received a salary increase (month and year)?

When all the data is collected a cost-of-living index is applied to the salaries of the general jurisdiction judges. That way, there are two ways to compare the rankings which enables a better comparison of the compensation between states. When the data is final, the JSS is published on the NCSC Salary Tracker webpage and the data is added to the map where users can easily compare states and types of judges.

The average general jurisdiction court judge saw a 4.5% increase in salaries in 2022 with similar increases for intermediate appellate court judges (4.2%) and justices of courts of last resort (chief justice 4.5%, associate justices 4.6%). 43 reporting jurisdictions indicated some form of judicial salary increase for general jurisdiction court judges in 2022 with 8 states reporting increases of over 10 percent.

The Judicial Salary Tracker page also includes special reports on judicial compensation, including two updated maps on judicial retirement and how states set salaries. Archived editions date back to 1974.

Many states have created salary commissions to make recommendations for judicial pay. States use a number of factors to obtain salary increases which include:

  • current state economic conditions;
  • state ability to fund increases;
  • skill and experience required for judgeships;
  • amount of time required for judgeships;
  • state interest in obtaining highly qualified and experienced attorneys to serve;
  • inflation/cost of living in general or the Consumer Price Index in particular;
  • compensation of judges in other states and specifically states in the same region;
  • compensation of federal judges;
  • compensation for “comparable services” (arbitration and mediation) in the private sector;
  • compensation of government sector attorneys;
  • compensation of private sector attorneys;
  • compensation of professionals in academia (e.g., law school deans and professors); and
  • compensation of other states, counties, or local officials.

The January 1, 2023 JSS update was just released and includes a new 10-year Trend line with figures and percentages! Have questions about the JSS or other issues related to judicial compensation? Contact Dimarie Alicea-Lozada or call 800-616-6164. Follow the National Center for State Courts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Vimeo.