CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A commission meant to make recommendations about West Virginia judicial compensation is going to take just a little more time and may present a range of possibilities to legislators.
“I’m kind of the view that our job is to be as helpful to the Legislature as possible,” commission chairman Greg Bowman told fellow committee members Tuesday.
“So we might want to make multiple recommendations for the Legislature to consider. They can choose a third. They can do nothing. They can do whatever they want.”
The West Virginia Judicial Compensation Commission, which had finalized a report recommending a 4.25 percent raise for judges, agreed during a meeting in late September to revise its work after receiving some feedback from representatives of the judicial branch. The report had been due by Sept. 1.
The commission — which includes the law school dean, two members of the public named by the state Senate president and two named by the House speaker — met just once, August 24, to discuss judicial salaries and then once more, Aug. 31, to adopt its original report.
Supreme Court justices currently earn $136,000 a year; circuit judges, $126,000; and family court judges, $94,500. The last time West Virginia judges got a pay raise was 2011, as part of incremental increases that were approved five years earlier.
Meeting again on Tuesday afternoon at the state Capitol, commission members went over some of the additional data that’s now built into the report. But they did not come up with a final recommendation.
The meeting in the relatively small Lew McManus Conference Room drew some attention. Senate President Mitch Carmichael sat in for a few minutes, as did Senate Majority Whip Ryan Weld. Legislative Auditor Aaron Allred dropped by. Supreme Court Administrator Gary Johnson sat in for the whole meeting.
The judicial compensation commission meeting coincided with a lot of Statehouse scuttlebutt over a WCHS report about the Supreme Court’s spending on office renovations. That topic — and a $32,000 couch that was part of the spending — were not actually a part of the commission’s discussion.
Instead, commission members talked about factors such as retirement benefits, what judges make in other states, how much judges might make in the private sector and West Virginia’s low median household income.
“This is a new commission and this is our first time through the process and we want to make sure we do it right,” Bowman said.
The commission will meet again Dec. 7, aiming to finalize its recommendations prior to the 2018 regular legislative session.