By Rob Luke

BOISE -- Idaho's judges, especially those on the state's Supreme Court, are overworked and underpaid, says the state's Chief Justice.

That might be news to the non-judicial residents of Idaho and some justices in neighboring South Dakota.

Idaho Chief Justice Gerald Schroeder told state lawmakers yesterday that last year's salary increase of more than $6,000 for Supreme Court judges was insufficient to continue attracting quality candidates.

He said the five-member Supreme Court and other justices, administering law in a state of 1,293,953 residents, faced workloads that would have been "unthinkable" 38 years ago when he assumed the bench.

Salaries for Supreme Court Justices in Idaho, at $110,500 annually, trail the national average of $137,074 by a gap of 19.3 percent. But that's barely more than the 18 percent gap between the median income of all Idaho ($53,376) and the nation as a whole ($65,093).

In West Virginia, Supreme Court of Appeals justices earn $121,000 annually in a state with a population of approximately 1.8 million people.

And the five Supreme Court Justices of neighboring South Dakota (pop. 754,844) must have been surprised to hear that their counterparts in Idaho are facing strenuous caseloads. After all, in the last six months of 2006 the South Dakota Supreme Court issued 55 opinions compared to just 44 by the Idaho Supreme Court over the same period.

Chief Justice Schroeder is retiring from the Supreme Court this summer.

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