Montana bill would specifically target Supreme Court salaries, end practice of linking salaries to that of justices in other states

December 27th, 2012 by Bill Raftery Leave a reply »

Current Montana law (2-16-403) provides that the salaries for the state’s supreme court are to be based on the salaries of judges in North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Idaho. The Department of Administration takes the salaries for these justices/chief justices, averages them, and raises (if needed) the Montana justice’s salaries to meet the average.

A draft bill requested by a Republican member of the Montana Senate would end the practice. Under D. 567 the salary of the seven highest paid nonjudicial Montana state employees would be used. The salaries of the seven would be averaged and used to set the salaries for the supreme court.

Interestingly, the bill as currently drafted would not end the same practice of averaging the salaries in the 4 surrounding states with respect to the District Court. 3-5-211 sets the same practice, but is not covered in D. 567.

2 comments

  1. MCD says:

    Will the new legislation have the effect of raising or lowering the justices’ compensation?

  2. Bill Raftery says:

    Good question MCD. It appears it cannot be lowered for two reasons.

    First, D. 567 keeps the existing language in 2-16-403 that “A justice’s salary or the chief justice’s salary may not be reduced” as the result of the biennial average-and-adjust-accordingly process.

    Second, the state’s constitution provides “All justices and judges shall be paid as provided by law, but salaries shall not be diminished during terms of office.” (Mont. Const., Art. VII § 7)

    As for whether this would raise the compensation, that depends on how much the top 7 state employees make, which I have no idea.

    And it still needs to get approved and signed into law, this is just at the draft phase.