(CN) – The New York Legislature violated the separation of powers doctrine by failing to raise the pay of state judges in 10 years, “subordinating the judiciary to its whims and caprices in matters of salary adjustments,” a state appeals court ruled.
Susan Larabee and three other judges sued the state, its Legislature and Gov. David Patterson for their alleged failure to give them raises.
The judges complained that the cost of living had increased 26 percent since their last raise. While New York judges rank 12th in the nation in pay, they rank 48th when considering the cost of living.
The Legislature and governor could not agree on an increase, because they were arguing over campaign-finance reform and Legislative pay increases, which were tied up in the legislation for the judicial pay increases.
“Compared with the other two branches of government,” the 1st Department Appellate Division wrote, “the judiciary is at a disadvantage with respect to seeking public support for its interests, particularly as to pay raises.”
The trial court ruled for the plaintiffs and the New York City-based appeals court agreed, but dismissed the governor from the complaint.
“Legislative immunity is unavailable to shield defendants from plaintiffs’ separation of powers claim,” the judges wrote, directing the lawmakers to adjust judicial salaries to reflect the increased cost of living.