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On Oklahoma judicial pay issue, politics needs to take back seat

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: October 7, 2013

This was the primary reason raises were spiked in 2012. The Republican House speaker at the time said he and his colleagues “cannot in good faith allow these raises to occur.” Democratic leaders in the House and Senate concurred, saying their position had nothing to do with the work done by judges. Instead, the timing was just not good.

Another hurdle: State workers, who haven't received across-the-board pay raises since 2006, are sure to holler if judges see their salaries increase. (The last raises for the judiciary came in 2007; two years later, the chief justice at the time asked the compensation board not to recommend raises due to state budget concerns.)

The politics associated with this recommendation are tricky. But sometimes politicians have to make difficult choices for the greater good. “We want to attract and retain high-quality judges,” said Tony Sellars, chairman of the compensation board. “It's imperative to make the compensation system equitable.”

Better pay for Oklahoma judges doesn't guarantee anything. Appellate judges with lifetime appointments have perks not typically found in law firms. Judges are in their jobs by choice. It's vital to remember that the decisions these judges make, regardless of compensation, have consequences that can last for decades.

Not addressing salaries is a sure way to shrink the pool of potential judge candidates who might be willing to pursue public service instead of the generally more lucrative private sector. This isn't good for the rest of us. In this case, politics needs to take a back seat.

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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