A New York judge has ruled that his own pay should be raised, and ordered New York’s legislature to increase the pay of every state judge in New York. (I’m not kidding. And I didn’t read it in The Onion.) Earlier, New York judges began blacklisting the law firms of state legislators who refused to increase their pay.
The ruling forcing the legislature to raise judges’ pay is absurd, and the reasoning behind it more so.
The ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed by the state’s arrogant chief judge, Judith Kaye. She sued for a pay raise, claiming that the state legislature’s failure to raise judges pay violated “separation of powers.” A state trial judge bought this argument. But it is an absurd, moronic argument that literally turns the idea of “separation of powers” upside down, as illogical as arguing that Brown v. Board of Education bans black kids from attending public school.
Not only does “separation of powers” not give judges the power to set their own pay, it is designed in large part to prevent the judicial branch of government (and the executive branch as well) from meddling in the legislative branch’s exclusive power to appropriate funds, including the legislature’s exclusive prerogative to set the salaries of government officials like judges.
This concept is so venerable, embraced not only by the Founding Fathers but also by the pioneers of representative government in England, that it has often been called “the taproot of the tree of Anglo-Saxon liberty.”
New York state judges complain that their salaries are informally linked to those of other state officials, but that’s true of federal judges as well: federal judges’ pay has tended to rise roughly in sync with Congressional pay. That’s not a “separation of powers” violation, and federal judges have never had the chutzpah to claim that it is.
This is just the latest outrage from the New York courts, which foster widespread “litigation abuse,” handle tort and family-law cases poorly, and score badly on tort liability indexes. They deserve no pay raise. The judge who issued the ruling, and Chief Judge Judith Kaye, should be removed from the bench for bringing this outrageous lawsuit that makes a mockery of separation-of-powers safeguards.