Kentucky: advisory Judicial Compensation Commission clears House; raises 5% or less “presumptively reasonable”; education-incentive program for court clerks attached

A plan to create a Kentucky Judicial Compensation Commission cleared the House earlier this week. Unlike the 2015 plan (discussed here) this Commission’s recommendation would be advisory only; the 2015 bill had the Commission’s recommended increases go into effect unless overridden by the legislature.

HB 525 as approved by the House has three main areas.

Advisory Judicial Compensation Commission

The bill as amended creates a 9-member judicial compensation commission. Members would include 2 picks each for the Governor, Senate President, House Speaker, and Chief Justice. The 9th member would be picked by the Kentucky Bar President.

The commission, in making its recommendation would look at 9 areas

  1. The overall economic climate in the Commonwealth;
  2. The rate of inflation;
  3. The levels of compensation received by justices and judges of other states and of the federal government;
  4. The Commonwealth’s interest in attracting highly qualified and experienced persons to serve as justices and judges;
  5. The value of comparable service performed in the private sector, including arbitration and mediation;
  6. The compensation of attorneys and other qualified persons in the private sector;
  7. The consumer price index and changes in that index;
  8. The overall compensation currently received by other public officials and employees; and
  9. The time requirements of the office for which the compensation recommendation is made.

5% raises are “presumptively reasonable”

With the above criteria in mind, the commission would meet every 2 years to make recommendations, however the legislature would still be required to approve them.

While the original and committee substitute for HB 525 all make the Commission’s recommendations advisory-only, the committee substitute includes the following language

A recommendation by the Commission for a salary increase for justices and judges that does not exceed one hundred five percent (105%) of the current salary for judicial officers at that level of the Kentucky Court of Justice shall be presumptively reasonable.

Clerks education incentive program

HB 525 as amended in committee adjusts the timing and amounts of salary adjustments for clerks of the Circuit Courts. First, it sets the clerk’s adjustments to the same time/same level as for other county officials, rather than on July 1 of each year.

HB 525 as amended also creates an incentive program for clerks. Those clerks of the Circuit Court who complete at least 40 hours of training per year under a program approved by the state’s Administrative Office of the Courts are to receive the same incentive payments as county officers who participate in a similar program (KRS 64.5275(6)).

HB 525 is now pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee.