Oregon and South Carolina consider directly tying state judicial salaries to federal judicial salaries

Efforts are underway in two states to directly tie the salaries for state judges to that of federal judicial pay.

Oregon HB 2238 would set judicial salaries for the state’s top courts (Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Tax, and Circuit) for the coming year. Thereafter in odd-numbered years (e.g. 2021, etc.) the salaries would be set as a percentage of the pay given to a U.S. District Court judge. The Oregon Chief Justice would be paid “no less than 90 percent” of the pay of a U.S. District Court judge while the other justices of the supreme court would receive 87%. Circuit Court judges would make no less than 80%.

South Carolina’s proposals differ markedly from one another.

SB 43 is very similar to the Oregon plan. It is a judges-only bill that focuses only on the state’s top courts. The South Carolina Chief Justice would make 100% of a U.S. District Court judge while the associate justices of the supreme court would receive 95% of the chief justice’s salary. Circuit Court judges would make 95% of the salary for associate justices. This creates something of a mathematical formula (U.S. District Court judge/S.C. chief justice salary * 95% (associate justice) * 95% = Circuit Judge)

SB 73 keeps the language/mathematical formulas for state judges but then sets salary levels for local prosecutors (circuit solicitors salaries would be tied to the local U.S. Attorney), public defenders, magistrates and masters-in-equity and others. HB 3161 is similar to SB 73 in terms of offices covered and levels established.