Georgia: Judicial omnibus bill includes 3 new Court of Appeals judges, salary increases, judicial compensation commission

Before ending session on April 2 the Georgia legislature approved and sent on to the Governor (on April 14) a bill that modified several parts of Georgia’s judiciary.

HB 279 had originally included provisions regarding judicial salaries. The amended version on its way to the governor now includes the following:

Part I

  • The Court of Appeals is expanded from 12 to 15 judges. The three new judges are to be appointed by the governor for their initial terms and face voters in 2018.
  • Supreme Court and Court of Appeals judges residing more than 50 miles from the judicial building in Atlanta will receive same daily expense allowance as members of the General Assembly.
  • Judges assigned to Drug Court, Mental Health Court, or Veterans Court divisions will receive a $6,000 “annual accountability court supplement” from the state via The Council of Superior Court Judges of Georgia.
  • Counties are not permitted to give more than a $50,000 in the form of a county salary supplements
  • Base state statutory salaries for judgesare increased
    • Supreme Court $139,418 to $175,600
    • Court of Appeals $138,556 to $174,500
    • Superior Court $99,862 to $126,265

Part II

  • Changes to Western Circuit

Part III

  • Creation of Judicial, District Attorney, and Circuit Public Defender Compensation Commission attached to the Criminal Justice Coordinating Commission. Authorization for the commission would be in place until 2020.
  • Compensation Commission has only the power to advise and recommend changes related to salaries and “efficient use of resources and caseload balance of the justice system”
  • Compensation Commission to be made up of 5 voting members
  1. Citizen member chosen by Governor
  2. Citizen member with experience in executive compensation and who is a non-attorney chosen by Governor
  3. Current or retired judge chosen by Chief Justice
  4. Non-attorney chosen by Lt. Governor
  5. Non-attorney chosen by House Speaker
    Chair of Senate Appropriations Committee (non-voting ex officio)
    Chair of House Appropriations Committee (non voting ex officio)
  • Compensation Commission to “evaluate and consider”
    1. Whether compensation drawing highly qualified, diverse attorneys to become judges, districts attorneys, or circuit public defenders
    2. Whether county supplements for judges, districts attorneys, or circuit public defenders is enough
    3. “The caseload demands of judicial officers, prosecuting attorneys, and public defenders and the allocation of such officials, including staffing resources and jurisdictional structure.”
    4. Skill/experience need for judges, districts attorneys, or circuit public defenders
    5. Time required for judges, districts attorneys, or circuit public defenders
    6. Value of “compensable service” by reference to other states and federal government
    7. Value of “comparable service” in private sector
    8. Compensation of attorneys in private sector
    9. Consumer Price Index changes
    10. Overall compensation received by other public officials and employees
    11. Any other factors normally taken into consideration