February 22, 2023
Since its inception in 1974, the Judicial Salary Survey (JSS) has reported state judicial salaries. A recent @TheCenter newsletter discusses the evolution of the JSS. This data has always included judges in courts of last resort, intermediate appellate, and general jurisdiction courts. From June 1975 until 2011, the Judicial Salary Survey also reported special and limited jurisdiction salaries.
Why did NCSC stop reporting that data in 2011? In short, data comparison is difficult if not impossible in this arena. The titles or names given to these types of courts and their judicial officers differ considerably from state to state. By July 2007, there were 45 different names for these courts. The most common court titles reported were municipal court, district court, and probate court. However, there are also some other courts such as environmental court, land court, and mayor’s court. Moreover, the same title can refer to two different levels of court. In Virginia, the Circuit Court is the court of general jurisdiction. In New Hampshire and Wyoming, the Circuit Courts are the lower/limited jurisdiction courts. The State Court Organization webpage details the many names of the current courts.
Putting aside the names of the courts, a comparison of jurisdictions would have to be made. For example, there were three “workers' compensation courts” reported in July 2007: Rhode Island, Nebraska, and Oklahoma. In many other states, workers' compensation commissions or courts are found in the executive branch as an administrative agency. Other key differences among states' special and limited jurisdiction courts are whether they have civil jurisdiction and if so, determining the civil jurisdiction thresholds and whether or not the courts have criminal jurisdiction at all. Connecticut Probate courts, for example, do not have criminal jurisdiction, while some Georgia Probate Courts can hear traffic and misdemeanor cases. Some states have certain special or limited jurisdiction courts that occur in only a select few counties or areas. New York’s District Courts (Nassau County and parts of Suffolk County only), Denver Probate Court (City and County of Denver only), and the Small Claims Court of Marion County are examples of this. Still more confusing is that several states, such as California and Minnesota, no longer have limited and special jurisdiction courts having absorbed them into the state’s general jurisdiction courts.
Thus, attempting to compare these limited and special jurisdiction courts is problematic as it gives a false impression that they are comparable. Therefore, it is no longer reported. The latest judicial compensation data is available now for the 3 main court levels, as well as a new 10-year salary history by state, and a report which details the origin of the legal language which determines the compensation of judges.
If you have any questions about the Judicial Salary Survey, please contact us at Knowledge@ncsc.org or call 800-616-6164. Follow the National Center for State Courts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Vimeo.