Study Commission discusses salary increases for judges and prosecutors

October 12, 2001

District attorneys and trial and appellate judges need a raise for the state to be able to attract and keep high quality public servants, several members of the Study Commission on the Mississippi Judicial System said Friday in Jackson.

The salaries subcommittee on Friday discussed a possible recommendation of a $10,000 a year raise for district attorneys, trial judges and justices of the Supreme Court, and a $14,000 raise for Court of Appeals judges, said Rep. Percy Watson of Hattiesburg, the subcommittee chairman. Court of Appeals judges need a bigger raise because their salaries are more out of line with those of other Southeastern states, Watson said.

Recommendations, reported Friday to a meeting of the Study Commission, have not been finalized. The Study Commission, created by the 2001 Legislature to recommend improvements for the court system, is expected to give its recommendations to the Legislature Dec. 1. Other study areas include methods of selection of judges, judicial election statutes, terms of courts and management of cases, and Justice Courts.

Watson said, "We understand the judges in Mississippi are underpaid when you consider the Southeastern average."

Mississippi trial judges - chancery and circuit court judges - earn $94,700 a year. Watson said that's $19,095 a year less than the Southeastern average for trial judges. The average for six other Southeastern states is $113,795 a year for trial judges, Watson said.

Watson said a tight state budget will make it difficult to get legislative approval for raises. "We have to be realistic in what we present to the Legislature. It's probably the worst fiscal time we have had in the last 10 or 12 years," Watson said. "It's going to be difficult to get any kind of salary increase through the Legislature in the upcoming legislative session."

Rep. Tommy Reynolds of Charleston, a member of the Study Commission, said, "There is a great crisis going on with assistant district attorneys that is really undermining the criminal justice system because we are losing so many of the good quality assistant district attorneys."

Reynolds said salaries for assistant district attorneys are not compatible with those that attorneys may expect to earn in the private practice of law. "I don't see how we have kept a lot of the good assistant district attorneys we have now," Reynolds said.

Watson cited a bar survey which said the average Mississippi attorney with six to 10 years of experience may earn $91,486 a year in private practice. The average for an attorney with 11-15 years of practice is $117,989, and the average for an attorney with 16-20 years of experience is $138,521, Watson said.

The annual salary of Mississippi district attorneys is $79,830.00. Assistant district attorneys may earn $15,000 to $67,500.

Salaries, set by state law, are found in Mississippi Code 25-3-35, which you may view on the Supreme Court's web site, courts.ms.gov. Click the MS CODE icon.

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court earns $104,900; Presiding Justices, $102,900; and Associate Justices, $102,300. The Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals earns $ 98,300, and Associate Judges of the Court of Appeals earn $95,500.

A salary comparison for judges in other states is available on the web site of the National Center for State Courts at www.ncsconline.org.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Edwin Pittman on Friday announced his appointment of Justice Kay B. Cobb to the 24-member Study Commission. Cobb replaces Justice Michael P. Mills, who was confirmed Thursday by the U.S. Senate to become U.S. District Court Judge.

For more information, contact court Public Information Officer Beverly Pettigrew Kraft at 601-354-7452 or at bkraft@courts.ms.gov.

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