Judicial Compensation Commission

Summary of Meeting of February 4, 2005

Room 334, State House

 

 

 

Convened:    9:40 a.m. 

Members Present:
     
      Edwin N. Clift
      Sandra Featherman 

Members Absent:

      David Flanagan 

Staff:   

      Lock Kiermaier, Analyst, Office of Fiscal and Program Review
      Dave Boulter, Executive Director, Legislative Council  

      Executive Director David Boulter convened the first meeting of the Judicial Compensation Commission. 

      Introductions of members and staff were made.  Executive Director Boulter then proceeded to outline the agenda for the meeting.  He reviewed the objectives of the meeting: review the duties of the commission as set forth in the enabling legislation; elect a commission chair, develop a plan of action, including identifying information needed as part of the commissionís review of judicial salaries (areas to focus on, need for public hearings, and presentation by the Judiciary), and the schedule for the commissionís meetings. 

      The members discussed the charge of the commission and criteria for recommendations.  While the commission may request general information relating to the Judicial Branch and its overall funding, the scope of the commission is limited to all aspects of judicial compensation, including salary, benefits and retirement to be paid to justices of the Supreme Judicial Court and the Superior Court and judges of the District Court. 

      Mr. Boulter reminded members that the law provides for staffing to the commission when the Legislature is not in session (adjournment is anticipated by June 15th).  However, staff member Lock Kiermaier is available on a very limited basis for brief meetings during the session to assist the commission.  Otherwise his fiscal duties to the Legislature must take precedence during the legislative session.   

      Because Mr. Flanagan was not present, the other members agreed to defer electing a commission chair until the next meeting when all members would be present. 

      Mr. Boulter conveyed to members that the Judiciary has identified an issue of limited scope relating to retirement compensation inequity that the Judicial Branch may present to the commission for consideration and recommendation this legislative session.  That issue will be more fully explored for presentation to the commission at its next meeting. 

      Discussion then turned to background information that will be necessary to assist commission members in their review.  The information requests are as follows: 

      1.   Maine Justices and Judges 

A.   Current salary ranges, including minimum starting salary of Maine Supreme Judicial Court and Superior Court justices and District Court judges; any provision for cost of living adjustments (COLAs), and the date the salary scales were last adjusted.

B.   Retirement benefits applicable to Maine justices and judges; summary of contributions and plan benefits for active and retired justices and judges.

C.   Health and other insurance plan benefits applicable to Maine justices and judges; summary of contributions and plan benefits for active and retired judges and justices.

D.   Legal, bar rule or other limitations on outside income by Maine justices and judges.

E.    Whether Maine law requires justices and judges to be licensed to practice law. 

      2.   Maine Judicial Branch  

A.     Number of justices and judges and titles.

B.     Average caseload for justices and judges for each court system.

C.     Average hours worked for justices and judges for each court jurisdiction.

D.     Terms of appointment for justices and judges.

E.      Median length of court service of justices and judges, by court jurisdiction.

F.      Issues and concerns expressed by the Maine Judicial Branch as they relate to judicial compensation. 

      3.   Other Statesí Information 

A.     Most current national survey of judicial salaries and benefits, e.g., National Center for State Courts survey, including compensation information specific to New England states. 

      The members suggested that a letter be sent to the Judicial Branch announcing the establishment of the Judicial Compensation Commission and inviting the Judicial Branch to raise relevant concerns and issues that it believes should be considered by the commission during its review.  It further suggested that the Judicial Branch be asked to include the basis or justification for its concerns or issues to be addressed, and suggested corrected actions.

      The members agreed that the next meeting should be scheduled after staff has had an opportunity to assess the information requests, prepare materials and develop a timetable for securing the information, if not readily available.

 

 

 

 

 

 

      Ms. Featherman requested that bottled water and coffee be provided to members at each meeting of the commission.  Mr. Boulter commented on the availability of food and beverages in the State House cafť.

 

      It was agreed that meetings will be held in the State House, that being a central meeting location for members.  Meetings would generally be scheduled in the morning (e.g. 9:00).  No particular day of the week was preferable to members.

 

      Members agreed to exchange telephone numbers and other contact information.  [Contact information is attached.]

 

      With all scheduled matters having come before the commission and the election of commission chair having been deferred, the commission meeting was adjourned at approximately 10:30 a.m.