Faced with a recession and the state's budget shortfall, some Carroll judges say they applaud a decision by the Maryland Judicial Conference to drop its request for 13 percent to 20 percent pay raises.
"I agree with it 100 percent," said Carroll Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr., whose salary would have increased 15.9 percent from $89,000 a year to $103,000 under the raise proposal. "I'm glad they decided not to ask for the increase."
The judges' decision to abandon their request for raises this year came in a letter written by Court of Appeals Associate Judge John J. McAuliffe to the independent state commission that reviews judges' salaries.
"At the time we formulated our original recommendation, we were aware of projections for a budgetary shortfall, but those projections were not of the magnitude the state clearly now faces," wrote McAuliffe, the chairman of the Compensation Commission of the Maryland Judicial Conference.
Burns said he agreed with McAuliffe's assertionthat it was unfair for judges to get a raise in a year when other state employees could face layoffs because of the $423 million budget deficit.
Under the original recommendation, all of the state's 310 judges would have received a raise.
Carroll County's newest judge, Francis M. Arnold, already received a pay increase this year when he wasappointed to the Circuit Court.
Arnold, who served as the administrative judge in Carroll District Court, received a pay increase from $82,300 to $89,000.
Arnold said he believed the judges should not have gone ahead with their pay request when it was first discussed in October.
"I think the decision to drop the request was certainly wise," said Arnold, who started hearing cases early last week.
"I think the timing of the request was very inappropriate."
He said he agreed with McAuliffe that the state is not in the same condition today as it was in the fall when the request was made.
Carroll County Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck, who was a state senator until he joined the bench in October 1989, said he thinks the postponement of the raise request was "very reasonable."
Beck said he hopes this move and others that are being tried to cut the shortfall do some good.
"Everybody has to bite the bullet sometime," said Beck.
Under the raise package, Carroll District Judge Donald M. Smith's salary would have jumped 20.1 percent, from $82,300 to $99,100.
Smith declined to comment on the salary postponement.
"I let the compensation commission do their job and I do mine," he said.
The proposal to raise judges' salaries came after McAuliffe argued before the Judicial Compensation Commission that the state judges' pay should be brought in linewith that of federal judges.
"I think all judges in Maryland feel that way," said Burns, the senior judge on the Carroll Circuit bench.
"That has been the topic of much discussion. I'm sure it will comeup again."
Maryland judges get the same yearly raises as state employees, but the Judicial Compensation Commission also recommends separate increases to the General Assembly every other year.
Under the raise proposal, judges in the Court of Appeals would have received a 13percent pay increase to $112,000 a year and members of the Court of Special Appeals would have gotten a 16.8 percent increase to $107,000.