Monday, June 1, 2009
McCoy Asks Bench Officers to Take 4.7 Percent Voluntary Pay Cut
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge Charles W. McCoy Friday urged the court’s judges and commissioners to take a voluntary pay cut in order to ease the court’s financial crisis, a source who attended a meeting of the local bench told the MetNews.
McCoy spoke to a large number of the court’s bench officers at various locations around the county, linked via the court’s closed-circuit television system. A request for comment was referred by McCoy to a court spokesperson, who would confirm only that the meeting took place and that it dealt with the court’s budget situation.
The spokesperson did emphasize, however, that McCoy has no authority to compel judges, who are constitutional officeholders, to take less than their statutory salaries of nearly $179,000 annually. Los Angeles Superior Court judges also receive a local benefits package worth up to $46,000 yearly, which was declared to be unauthorized by the Court of Appeal but reinstated earlier this year by the Legislature.
McCoy announced two weeks ago that the court will begin a furlough program July 15, continuing for at least 12 months, in which nearly all court operations will be closed down, and employees furloughed, on the third Wednesday of each month. The closures and furloughs are expected to save $18 million annually.
A judicial officer who attended Friday’s meeting, speaking on condition of anonymity, said McCoy asked the judges and commissioners to take a 4.7 percent pay cut, equivalent to one day’s pay per month. Referees, who occupy the lowest rung on the judicial ladder, will be treated as employees and will be furloughed along with other staff members.
By accepting voluntary reductions, the source added, the bench officers may be able to forestall more drastic measures, including possible pay cuts imposed by the Legislature.
The state Constitution prohibits cutting of judicial pay during a term of office. But lawmakers could impose cuts that would affect newly appointed judges, reduce or eliminate future cost-of-living increases, and cut the pay of sitting judges, effective once they begin new terms.
McCoy noted that lawmakers themselves are facing pay cuts, as are other elected state officials, the source said. The Citizens Compensation Commission, which has the final say on the issue, voted two weeks ago to impose an 18 percent cut, effective after next year’s elections.
If judges’ pay, which is set by the Legislature rather by the commission, is not cut, judges would be paid more than any other elected state officials, including the governor, beginning January 2011.
The source added that McCoy said he would seek legislation providing that savings from trial judges’ voluntary pay cuts be allocated to the courts on which those judges serve, rather than to the overall trial court budget.
A spokesperson for state Senate President Pro Tem Darryl Steinberg, D-Sacramento, would say only that “everything’s on the table” as Senate and Assembly budget conferees look for ways to bring state finances under control.
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company