How States Set Salaries

The National Center for State Courts conducted a survey of all fifty states to gather detailed information related to the processes used by states to set judicial compensation and judicial salary increases.

The survey includes information regarding:

  • Statutory provisions,
  • Use of judicial compensation commissions,
  • Methods and processes used to establish salary increases, and
  • Information regarding judicial salary escalators. 

The survey data revealed that:

  • 25 states utilize judicial compensation commissions.
  • 25 states use other methods to set judicial compensation, most notably, legislative action driven by statute.
  • The states with compensation commissions implement changes in four different ways, which are detailed below. (1) Advisory: The commission presents a salary report that serves as a recommendation for legislative action. (2) Binding unless overridden by legislature: The commission’s salary report goes into effect unless changed or overridden by the legislature. The threshold can be a simple majority or as high as two-thirds. (3) Binding unless overridden by voters. (4) Binding cannot be overridden: The commission’s salary report goes into effect and cannot be changed or overridden by the legislature. This appears to be limited to the newly formed Independent Citizens Commission of Arkansas, which sets salaries for state elected officials in all three branches