As California court employees across the state brace for the possibility of more layoffs and hour reductions, the paychecks of those who actually sit on the bench continue to enjoy a constitutional protection from cuts, says the Sacramento Bee. California is one of 30 states in which the state constitution prohibits reducing judges’ salaries during their term. That means the six-figure pay of justices serving in all levels of the state’s courts won’t take a hit in the latest round of budget cuts.
Greg Hurley, an analyst for the National Center for State Courts, said the state protections, like a similar provision for federal judges’ salaries in the U.S. Constitution, are meant to ensure separation of powers and “protect judges who might make an unpopular decision. Even allowing California’s judges to give up part of their salary voluntarily requires approval from the Legislature. Lawmakers granted such authorization in 2009, when then-state Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald George asked judges to give up 4.6 percent of their pay each month during fiscal 2009-10.