CHARLESTON – An annual report released by Vermont Law School shows that West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals clerks make more money than their counterparts in any other state.
The 2016-2017 Guide to State Court Judicial Clerkship Procedures says West Virginia clerks are the highest paid in the United States. Secretaries for the Supreme Court justices make at least $80,000 per year, while most secretaries for the court make substantially less.
According to the report, circuit court clerks make $46,416 with benefits and salaries for the members of the West Virginia State Bar are $55,008 with benefits.
The five state Supreme Court justices each has four clerks and one secretary working beneath him or her and of those clerks, the salary averages $120,000 per year.
Ohio is the next highest paid state, where clerks who have been admitted to the practice of law for more than 15 years can make $90,313.
The justices themselves make $136,000 per year, which is set by West Virginia code.
The Vermont report states that salaries for the justices’ personal clerks are set by each particular justice and include benefits.
The Supreme Court has come under fire recently for its budget after the cost of renovations came to light last year.
Currently going through the Legislature is an amendment to reign in the court’s budget.
The Judicial Budget Oversight Amendment still needs two-thirds of the votes to pass in the House. It would then go on the November ballot for citizens to vote on.
More than $3.7 million has been spent renovating the justices’ offices, including a couch for Chief Justice Allen Loughry’s office that cost approximately $32,000.
In January, Brian Casto, counsel for the Joint Standing Committee on the Judiciary, pointed out that West Virginia is the only state where the judiciary enjoys the sort of budget autonomy like this.
Essentially, the separation of powers in West Virginia has been interpreted to mean the court system provides its budget and the Legislature may increase it but cannot decrease it.