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Florida’s judicial pay still lags for district and trial court judges

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Florida is the third largest state, but its trial court judicial salaries rank 26th in the country and district court judges are in the middle of the pack.

Pay for judicial positions is ranked annually by the National Center for State Courts. The 2019 survey shows Florida’s judicial pay is competitive at the highest level, but less so in lower jurisdictions.

John Stewart“Ensuring justice in Florida requires the highest caliber judges on the bench,” Bar President John Stewart said. “To bring the best and most diverse talent to the courts of the nation’s third-largest state, we must offer pay levels that can compete with the public and private sectors.”

Florida’s Supreme Court justices rank sixth nationally in compensation.

Pay for the state’s district court judges is in the 52nd percentile nationally, meaning 20 states pay intermediate appellate judges more.

Salaries for trial court judges ranked 26th among the states and U.S. protectorates and fell in the lower half of the annual survey.

Stewart said by paying judges a competitive wage, the state will ensure it attracts good lawyers to seek the bench and retains experienced jurists who move cases efficiently, fairly, and predictably through the system; thus saving citizens and businesses time and money while guaranteeing justice under the law.

“Making sure our judges are fairly compensated is just good business,” Stewart said.

The salary figures are based on pay as of July 1, 2019. The comparisons are approximate, basing Florida’s ranking on the pay for circuit judges in a category of general jurisdiction court.

Florida DCA judges placed 21st, and trial court judges tallied 26th.

In 2017, with significant legislative support, then Gov. Rick Scott signed a budget that boosted judicial salaries by 10 percent for the first time in more than a decade.

Pay for Supreme Court justices then went to $178,420. DCA judges compensation is now $169,554; circuit judges $160,688; and county court judges $151,822.

In contrast to judicial pay lagging behind other states, Florida’s judges rank high in efficiency metrics. Florida has consistently maintained a ratio of less than five trial court judges per 100,000 population, demonstrating the state is making efficient use of judicial resources, according to the Office of the State Courts Administrator. Florida is well below the national average on the ratio of trial court judges to population — 4.3 compared to 6.5 per 100,000 in population, according to National Center for State Courts and U.S. Census data.

In 2018, the Legislature raised Supreme Court salaries to $220,600.

Action by the Legislature in recent years raised Supreme Court judges pay into the top 10 nationally, but district court and trial court judges remain below that threshold.

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