Many judges in Texas make less money than their counterparts in some of the nation’s most populous states, according to the 2011 Annual Report for the Texas Judiciary. But Texas judges won’t see a raise for a while. Due to budgetary constraints, the Texas Legislature in 2011 did not address judicial compensation for the next biennium, the report notes.
Texas Judicial Compensation Commission (JCC) member Pat Mizell (pictured) says the state hasn’t increased judges’ salaries in six years.
“They need to be high enough to attract decent people and not make the sacrifice so difficult it deters quality people from seeking the job,” says Mizell, partner in Vinson & Elkins in Houston.
In its 2010 Report to the Texas Legislature, the JCC recommended lawmakers increase judicial salaries in amounts ranging from 5.7 to 10.2 percent for different judicial levels.
Mizell, who served as judge of Harris County’s 129th District Court from 1995 to 2002, says being a judge was “a great, fun, honorable job,” but he returned to private practice so he could more easily support his wife and four children.
“There’s a pretty broad disparity between what judges in Texas are paid versus law professors, lawyers in the private sector, and the like,” he says. Mizell notes the recession since 2008 has created a “very difficult climate” to seek judicial pay raises, but he hopes things change in the 2013 legislative session.
“I think there’s a general optimism among the commission members that this session may be the year we finally get something done,” he says about the JCC.
Here are judges’ current salaries, according to the 2011 Annual Report for the Texas Judiciary, compared with the JCC’s 2010 recommendations.
Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice, Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge
JCC recommendation: $168,000
Supreme court justices, CCA judges
JCC recommendation: $163,000
Court of appeals chief justice
Current: up to $147,500
JCC recommendation: $160,500
Court of appeals justice
Current: up to $145,000
JCC recommendation: $155,500
Current: up to $140,000
JCC recommendation: $148,000
-- Angela Morris