Business Leaders Urge Increased Compensation For Judges

Tuesday, January 5, 2010 - 00:00

The Atlantic Legal Foundation and the Partnership for New York City have applied for "friend of the court" status in the New York Court of Appeals in a case in which the Appellate Division, First Department, ruled that the legislature had abused its power by depriving the judiciary of any increase in compensation for approximately 10 years.

Their brief points out that the current level of judicial compensation is lower than for federal judges and practically all other state judges, and lags far behind amounts earned by lawyers in other public service positions and in private practice - even by new lawyers in large urban firms not yet admitted to the practice of law.

"Our judiciary is faced with the most complex and demanding caseload in the nation because of New York's status as a global business and financial center," said Kathryn Wylde, President & CEO of the Partnership for New York City, the city's leading business organization. "Adequate compensation is critically important to attracting and retaining high-caliber judges who are capable of tackling these complicated cases."

The Foundation and Partnership contend in their brief that:

Judicial compensation in New York is in no sense competitive and is not adequate to continue to attract and retain jurists of the highest skill and experience; most notably, seasoned commercial lawyers in private practice are no longer attracted to the judiciary in adequate numbers.

Lack of judicial experience and expertise in commercial matters can have a negative impact on the quality of decisions handed down in commercial cases, especially complex litigation. Thus, low compensation will likely reduce the quality of decisions in commercial cases and may increase the costs of litigation due to errors, appeals, and delays.

The business community needs an efficient, reliable judiciary to resolve controversies. Without an experienced, diverse and skilled judiciary, business activity will be diverted elsewhere, companies will incorporate or move elsewhere because they will lose faith in the ability of the State's judicial system to resolve commercial lawsuits promptly and competently, and New York State's economy will suffer.

Predictability of judicial decisions is essential to the business community because companies need to be able to anticipate the legal consequences of their business decisions to avoid litigation. If judges are not experienced and expert in commercial matters, the predictability of the judicial decision-making process will suffer and more lawsuits will result, diverting the time and attention of businesses from their primary objectives and hampering their ability to generate revenues and profits. Needless business litigation ultimately has a negative impact on the ability of businesses to pay taxes and to fund payrolls.

The Atlantic Legal Foundation, now in its 30th year, is a non-profit, non-partisan organization with a history of advocating for limited, effective government, free enterprise, individual liberty, school choice, and sound science in the courtroom. Its board of directors includes current and former general counsels of 16 major corporations. Other members of Atlantic Legal Foundation's board of directors and its advisory council have substantial responsibility for business litigation at major law firms.

The Partnership for New York City (www.pfnyc.org) is a network of business leaders dedicated to enhancing the economy of the five boroughs of New York City and maintaining the city's position as the center of world commerce, finance and innovation.