Judges asked to forfeit 5 vacation days Kaplan calls plan 'unacceptable'

December 19, 1991|By Sandy Banisky Michael J. Clark, Deborah I. Greene and Joel McCord of The Sun's metropolitan staff contributed to this article.

Chief Judge Robert C. Murphy is asking Maryland's Circuit Court judiciary to consider giving up five vacation days to help ease budget pressures. But at Baltimore's courthouse yesterday the judges were voicing a respectful "no."

"The proposal is totally unacceptable to us," Administrative Judge Joseph H. H. Kaplan of the Baltimore Circuit Court said.

Cutting back on vacation time from 27 days to 22 won't fatten the state treasury, while it may leave overworked judges closer to burnout, Judge Kaplan said. "All it means is, I'll have a lot of judges dropping over and being mentally unfit."

"It really terribly upsets the morale," he added.

Last week, Gov. William Donald Schaefer proposed furloughing state employees for up to five days, depending on their salaries, to cut costs during the budget crisis.

Barred by the constitution from ordering judges and constitutional officers such as the comptroller from taking unpaid leave, the governor said he'd ask them to help out voluntarily.

That prompted Judge Murphy's memo, proposing that Circuit Court judges reduce their annual paid leave days as a gesture of support.

But Judge Kaplan said such a change would be counterproductive.

"The judges work very, very hard, under a great deal of pressure, and they need their leave time," Judge Kaplan said. "If you take away leave time for people going at triple speed, you don't get anything more out of them."

As an alternative, he said, some judges offered to turn five days' pay back to the state.

But "you couldn't require them to do that," Judge Kaplan said. "We haven't gotten a raise in two years, and we're not going to get one this year."

Maryland's Circuit Court judges are paid $89,200 a year. By comparison, he said, a federal magistrate on Jan. 1 will be paid $120,000.

This afternoon, a hearing will be held at the Court of Appeals to consider whether to go ahead with the proposed reduction in judicial leave time.

Judge James Vaughan, the administrative judge for Howard and Carroll counties, said judges there were considering the proposal.

"The judges in our district are not opposed -- although they're not wildly enthusiastic, either -- to making certain sacrifices with theunderstanding that other state employees are making sacrifices, too," he said.

"Everybody should do their part at this time -- and, I don't mind doing my part with what's going on with the budget," said Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. in Westminster.

In Anne Arundel County, Judge Raymond G. Thieme, chief of the 4th Circuit there and chairman of the Conference of Circuit Judges, apparently had not yet heard from Judge Murphy.

"On a matter like that, I would think you'd wait for some guidance from the administrator of the courts," he said. "And no such formal request has been made."

For their part, Governor Schaefer, Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein, Treasurer Lucille Maurer and Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. said they intend to work five days without pay.

"Everybody's going to have to do a little," Mr. Curran said. "I'll do like everybody else and come into work. I just won't take any pay."

Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg said that instead of taking five days off or turning back a week's pay, he had given the $27,500 pay raise he received last year -- and maybe more -- to charity over the last year. He said he would have a certified accounting of the contributions made public in the next few weeks.

"To stay away from work for five days to me is wrong," Mr. Steinberg said. "As a constitutional officer, I don't work on a clock. I will give up the money [in the pay raise]."

In Baltimore, Judge Kaplan said the judges are willing to do their share, but giving up leave days "doesn't solve any problem at all."

Moreover, rescheduling court dockets set four months in advance would be a bureaucratic hassle, he said.

"Many people have already given me their vacation schedules for all of 1992," Judge Kaplan said. "Some of them have paid for plane tickets. If you take that week away, they may not be able to comply with their travel plans. It's just not a fair thing to do."

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