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Chief Justice Randolph gave state judges a pay raise, then lawmakers gave them another

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Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Randolph
Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Randolph

Mississippi lawmakers rubber-stamped a pay raise Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Randolph gave to himself and other state judges last year and provided judges an additional pay raise during the completed 2022 session.

House Bill 1423, passed during the 2022 session and signed into law by Gov. Tate Reeves, puts into law the pay raise that was enacted early in 2021 by the chief justice. In addition, the legislation provides additional salary increases for the state’s nine Supreme Court justices, 10 Court of Appeals judges, 57 circuit judges and 52 chancellors starting Jan. 1, 2023.

The pay raise for Randolph goes from $174,000 annually to $181,490. The other pay raises starting in 2023 are:

  • Presiding justices on the Supreme Court from $169,500 to $176,737.
  • Associate justices on the Supreme Court from $166,500 to $173,800.

The chief judge for the Court of Appeals, starting in 2023, will receive a raise of $7,849 to $169,349, while the associate judges will get a pay increase of $9,967 to $168,467.

The districtwide trial court judges, both circuit and chancery, will receive an increase of $9,000 to $158,000 starting in 2023.

The pay raises slated to begin on Jan. 1 are in addition to the salary increases Randolph awarded to the judges early in 2021.

Before enacting the pay raise in 2021, Randolph wrote a letter in December 2020 informing state Personnel Board Executive Director Kelly Hardwick that he was authorizing a $15,000 pay raise for himself to bring his salary to $174,000 annually and awarded similar salary increases for other members of the state’s judiciary.

While most elected officials in Mississippi have their salaries set by the Legislature — traditionally the only governmental body with the power to appropriate money — a provision in a 2012 law apparently gives the Supreme Court chief justice the power to raise salaries of the judiciary without legislative approval.

READ MORE: Supreme Court chief quietly gave pay raise to himself and other judges without legislative approval

At the time Randolph enacted the salary increase, some legislators questioned his authority to enact the pay raise. But during the 2022 session, the Legislature did not change the law to ensure that the chief justice could not enact similar raises in the future. Instead, the Legislature put those pay raises Randolph enacted in 2021 into law and provided the additional pay raises starting in 2023.

The 2022 legislation also provides a pay raise for district attorneys from $125,900 to $134,400 starting Jan. 1.

In addition to providing the power to raise judiciary salaries, the 2012 legislation, authored by then-House Judiciary A Chair Mark Baker, R-Brandon, also increased the fees on various court filings — such as the fee to file a civil lawsuit or on the levies in criminal proceedings — to help pay for the salary increases. Some argued at the time the increase on the various court filings was equivalent to a tax increase for those who use the courts. But then-Chief Justice William Waller Jr., who advocated for the 2012 legislation, said judges at the time desperately needed a pay increase and he was trying to be responsible by providing a method to pay for it.

During the 2022 session, legislators also provided significant pay raises for other state elected officials.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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