West Virginia: Judicial Compensation Commission clears Senate committee; commission’s recommendation no longer automatically enacted unless overridden

A plan to set up a West Virginia Judicial Compensation Commission has cleared its first legislative hurdle. SB 339 as amended by the committee differs in several ways from the original bill.

Commission’s report is now just a recommendation

Under the original plan the Commission would issue a report that would be automatically appropriated and take effect unless rejected by 60% of the House and Senate. Under the amended version, the report is just a recommendation. The House Speaker and Senate President would be obligated to introduce the recommendations as a bill (or bills) but it would still require enactment/appropriation. If the legislature failed to enact the recommendations, the report would be automatically reintroduced every year until adopted or a new commission report/recommendation was issued.

Membership

The original bill provided for a 5 member commission including the President of the West Virginia State Bar. The bar president’s seat has instead been given to the governor

  1. Dean of West Virginia University’s law school
  2. Governor’s appointee
  3. President of the West Virginia State Bar Governor’s second appointee
  4. House Speaker’s appointee
  5. Senate President’s appointee

Criteria used to assess judicial salaries

Second, of the 9 criteria for the commission to consider, only 8 remain. Dropped from the list, “The level of overall compensation adequate to attract the most highly qualified individuals in the state, from a diversity of life and professional experiences, to serve the judiciary without unreasonable hardship and with judicial independence unaffected by financial concerns.”

  1. The skill and experience required of the particular judgeship at issue
  2. The value of comparable service performed by justices and judges, as determined by reference to judicial compensation in other states and in the federal government
  3. The value of comparable service performed in the private sector including, but not limited to, private judging, arbitration, and mediation
  4. The compensation of attorneys in the private sector
  5. The cost of living
  6. The compensation presently received by other public officials in the state
  7. The compensation of deans, presidents, and chancellors of the university systems, if available
  8. Any other information the commission may find relevant in its mission to determine the appropriate compensation for the state’s professional judicial officers.

SB 339 is now on the Senate’s 2nd reading calendar.