House rejects lower pay raise for judges

House rejects lower pay raise for judges

Del. Kathy Szeliga , left, questions Del. Maggie McIntosh about judicial salaries. photo.

Listen to this article

By Len Lazarick

The House of Delegates Thursday rejected Republican attempts to lower a proposed pay raise for judges and tentatively approved a plan to give the 313 judges $20,000 more over the next four years.

House Appropriations Committee Chair Maggie McIntosh said the raises were necessary to keep attracting the best talent to serve on the bench.

But the raises of $5,000 per year for the next four years were also the amount that their Senate counterparts would agree to, she said.

If the House and Senate do not agree on the same amount of salaries for judges by March 15, the $35,000 raise recommended by the Judicial Compensation Commission would automatically go into effect.

“We must work with our Senate colleagues on this issue,” McIntosh said. If the House sent them a lower amount, “they will disagree,” and the higher pay will take effect.

The Senate has taken no action on the joint resolution, even canceling a hearing earlier this month.

Del. Joe Cluster, R-Baltimore County, proposed an amendment lowering the judicial pay to $1,000 a year over four years.

“These are public servants. They are not here to get rich,” Cluster said. He and other Republican delegates said their own constituents were struggling to make incomes far below what the judges are making.

“We don’t need to listen to the Senate,” said House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga, arguing against what she called a “clearly out-of-line increase,” especially after “they just got $14,000 in the last go around.”

$174K for circuit judges, $161K for district court

The committee action would bring the salaries of 173 circuit court judges up to $174,433 and the pay for 117 district court judges, the lowest paid of the jurists, up to $161,333. This represents a 13% hike compared to current pay for circuit court judges and 14% for district court judges.

The chief judge of the Court of Appeals would get $215,433 beginning July 1, 2021, when the final pay hike kicks in.

Del. C.T. Wilson, D-Charles, a former prosecutor now in private practice as a defense attorney, said, “It may seem like a lot but I promise you it’s worth it,” in order to attract the best candidates to be judges.

McIntosh said, “I’m not saying we have a dearth of applicants” for judgeships, but now they tend to come from government service, as opposed to the higher-paying private sector.

“The cases before our courts today are becoming more and more complex,” McIntosh, and the state needed to attract private attorneys with expertise in those areas.

All judges in Maryland are initially appointed by the governor after applying to Judicial Nominating Commissions set up throughout the state to review their qualifications.

Del. Susan McComas, R-Harford, an attorney herself, said that those attorneys handling the most complex civil litigation “are making half a million dollars” a year, and would not be attracted by higher salaries.

The House rejected Cluster’s cut 40-89.

About The Author

Len Lazarick

Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.


  1. Ms. Dakota

    They should get the same 2 percent the rest of the state workers may or may not get in Jan. 2019.

  2. 13eeker

    Judges also have to be residents. If such language skills are demonstrated by Maryland journalists (who rely on the written word), through what logic would Maryland judiciary legal skills be advanced by simply throwing more money at the bench?

  3. Small Town Reporter

    “We must work with our Senate colleagues on this issue,” McIntosh said. If the House sent them a lower amount, “they will disagree,” and the higher pay will take effect.

    This was the same ploy used in 2012.

    “This isn’t something that just happens,” said McMillan. “This same exact scenario took place in 2005. This is no accident. It’s planned this way, in my opinion, so we have these artificial deadlines because the Senate might not accept what we do. This is a well thought-out dance.”

  4. shusa2013

    But this gives them the opportunity to continue giving light sentences to armed criminals. These judges are one of the prime reasons for Maryland’s crime problem.

Support Our Work!

We depend on your support. A generous gift in any amount helps us continue to bring you this service.