New law makes Oklahoma only state where trial judges make more money than appellate judges

I’ve mentioned here and here the difficulty Oklahoma has had in terms of increasing judicial salaries through their linking process; the salaries of the state’s executive branch officials are equal to those of judicial officials. For example state law provides the Governor of Oklahoma’s salary is to be equal to that of the Chief Justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court. As a result, there hasn’t been an increase in judicial salaries since 2008 as lawmakers have rejected recommendations by the state’s Board on Judicial Compensation (such as HJR 1093 of 2012 rejecting a proposed 6% cost of living increase) out of concern they were also increasing executive branch salaries.

This year, however, the Oklahoma legislature approved, and the Governor has now signed, an increase in judicial salaries for trial judges only (i.e. District Court Judges, Associate District Court Judges, and Special District Court Judges) as HJR 1096 of 2014. This resulted in an increase for salaries for District Attorneys as their salaries are linked as 98% of District Judges.

The resulting salaries

District Court Judges $131,835
Associate District Court Judges $121,596
Special District Court Judges $111,356

However, there is no additional appropriations and the salary increases will have to come out of current budgets.

As my colleagues here at the National Center for State Court’s Judicial Salary Tracker have confirmed, this makes Oklahoma the only state where trial judges make more than appellate judges; judges of the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals will still make $130,410, or $1,425 less than that of a District Court Judge.