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It Seems The Much-Heralded ‘Public Service’ Is Not Sufficient to Attract Judges . . We Simply Need to Pay Them More

It Seems The Much-Heralded 'Public Service' Is Not Sufficient to Attract Judges . . We Simply Need to Pay Them More 4

Tony Hubbard – Who said Judge’s were over-paid? And why should ‘public service’ alone be sufficient to attract new judges to the bench? The Remuneration Authority has decided that Judges, particularly District and Maori Court Judges, deserve more and – in a recruitment initiative focused on money rather than public service – they have decreed that more money should be paid.

The oft-heard cry, particularly at New Year when Their Honours frequently receive an honour of one sort or another “for services to the legal profession” indicates that service alone is not sufficient to compensation judges, but rather a pay increase in the same way it is used to attract bus drivers, teachers and other workers.

“Services to the legal profession” is therefore a clearly implied paid service rather than one that is as public-spirited and borne of the generosity of spirit reflected in the Queen’s Birthday and New Year honours that we read of.

The Judicial Pay Rates

Hence the announced increases which, for District Court Judges, show an annual salary of over $358,000, being a 2.7 per cent increase for the period from 2018 – 2019.

High Court Judges receive over $471,000 (a 1.5 per cent increase for the same period), the Supreme Court Justices receive $525,400 (1.4 per cent increase).

The Remuneration Authority has increased the salary of Judges of the District Court and of the Māori Land Court by 2.7% from 1 October 2019, saying it is a response to the high level of recruitment planned for the next three to five years.

The Judicial Officers Salaries and Allowances Determination 2019 was gazetted on 19 December 2019 and is deemed to have come into force on 1 October 2019. It expires on 30 September 2020 and sets the salaries and allowances for Judges of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, the High Court, the District Court, the Employment Court and the Māori Land Court.

In the Judicial Officers Salaries and Allowances Determination 2018, the Authority abolished a principle allowance for general expenses which had been previously paid to the judiciary, deciding that it was “redundant in the modern world”. From 1 October 2018 a grossed up principal allowance was incorporated into the salaries of the judicial officers.

In its explanatory comments on the latest determination, the Authority says it sees across the judiciary that there are arguments that the scope of particular judicial roles has increased in recent years, saying a key focus this year was the advice it received on the stability of the benches and their apparent candidate pools.

“This has not generated any external concern that we can detect. We see across the benches of the judiciary a strong capacity to adapt that may have the side-effect of obscuring some of the pressures on remuneration.”

While it says that “across the benches” there has not been strong evidence of a serious situation in relation to retention or recruitment to any particular bench as a result of the current level of remuneration, it could be at a turning point on recruitment “as we have been advised by several benches of recent indications from potential candidates that point to the relationship between remuneration and recruitment as being at some risk of changing in the coming year”.

Shifting Judicial Requirements

The Authority says two specific issues of recruitment have emerged to have greater significance in the latest review – the need to recognise a shift in the requirments of candidates for Tikanga Māori, and the need to support the large-scale recruitment initiatives to the District Court over the next few years “which will be put in train shortly”.

The Authority says that to maintain the relative position of judges, compared with other relevant groups, the judges of the senior courts will receive an adjustment informed by the new public sector labour cost index salaries and wages indicator, which excudes the increases to the minimum wage and major pay settlements for the year ended 30 September 2019.

“A base increase of 1.5% is applied to the remuneration of a judge of the High Court, and the equivalent dollar amount is then applied as a fixed-sum increase to the remuneration of the Chief High Court Judge and the judges of the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.”

It says the 2.7% increase for judges of the District Court and Māori Land Court will be taken into account next year when assessing any increases. This year’s additional increase is both in response to the general indicators it uses and recognition of the high level of recruitment that is planned for the District Court over the next three to five years.

“We have applied the second part of the salary adjustments initiated in 2018 to Associate Judges of the High Court and to the Principal Youth Court Judge and Principal Environment Judge,” it says.

Total salaries from 1 October 2019 (including principal allowances)
Judicial officer1-Oct-191-Oct-182018 to 2019
Chief Justice560,100553,1001.3%
Judge of Supreme Court525,400518,4001.4%
President of Court of Appeal525,400518,4001.4%
Judge of Court of Appeal493,500486,5001.4%
Chief High Court Judge493,500486,5001.4%
Judge of High Court471,100464,1001.5%
Associate Judge of High Court399,000369,0008.1%
Chief District Court Judge471,100463,2001.7%
Principal Family Court Judge403,600397,6001.5%
Principal Youth Court Judge403,600385,7004.6%
Principal Environment Judge403,600385,7004.6%
District Court Judge358,100348,7002.7%
Chief Judge of Employment Court441,400434,9001.5%
Judge of Employment Court399,000393,1001.5%
Chief Judge of Māori Land Court403,600397,6001.5%
Deputy Chief Judge of Māori Land Court380,700375,1001.5%
Judge of Māori Land Court358,100348,7002.7%

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