How States Set Salaries

In 2022, the National Center for State Courts conducted a survey to gather detailed information related to the processes used to set judicial compensation and judicial salary increases.

The survey includes information regarding:

  • Statutory and constitutional provisions,
  • Use of judicial compensation commissions, and
  • Methods and processes used to establish salary increases

The survey data revealed that:

Twenty-five reporting jurisdictions utilize judicial compensation commissions. These come in four types:

  • Advisory: The commission presents a salary report that serves as a recommendation for legislative action.
  • Binding unless overridden by the 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.
  • Binding unless overridden by voters: this is limited to Washington
  • 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 Independent Citizens Commission of Arkansas, which sets salaries for state elected officials in all three branches.

Reporting jurisdictions vary widely in terms of how the exact salary is determined, whether by an amendment to a statute, language in an appropriations bill, a computational formula, or other means.

If you have any questions about this data contact Bill Raftery.