Today’s Guest: Chief Justice Labarga!
Discuss: Are Florida’s judges underpaid?
Consider: Budget cuts are hitting agencies across the state hard, to the point the Clerk of Courts is laying off employees, keeping shorter hours, and requiring furlough days. At the same time, private sector first year associates at top firms start at $160,000 plus a bonus, almost $16,000 more than a circuit judge ($146,079.96), and $22,000 higher than a county judge ($138,019.92).
Should some of the highest paid public servants be concerned about the private sector at a time when all state employees are hurting? Does the extremely generous judicial pension program, which remains unmatched in the private sector even after recent changes requiring state employees to kick in three percent of their yearly income, make up for the perceived shortfall? Or is Labarga correct in the following beliefs, taken from a recent Sun Sentinel interview:
(Labarga said) (s)tagnant salaries and reforms to state worker-pension programs have caused judges to flee the bench in recent years … “We lost a tremendous amount of judges throughout the state … They are back in private practice making millions right now. So we need to keep what we have, and we need to attract very talented people” … Labarga said better salary or benefits are needed to lure private attorneys into the public sector. As Florida’s population continues to grow and more businesses settle here, the state will need top-notch judges to deal with an influx of civil and contractual cases … Labarga said reforms must start with the pension … He recognizes the state will never be able to compete with private-sector salaries but said guaranteeing judges a secure future can make the position more attractive … “I want some more diversity among the profession … I want to see some more people from the private sector. I want to see more lawyers who are doing contract law … what we see now are pretty much prosecutors.”
TALK AMONGST YOURSELVES!