CHARLESTON – A bill that would provide pay raises of roughly 20 percent for judges in West Virginia has passed the state Senate.
The Senate voted 29-3 in favor of Senate Bill 597 on Feb. 17. It now heads to the House of Delegates.
The bill would give an 18 percent pay raise over two years to state Supreme Court justices, circuit court judges and county magistrate. Family court judge would see a 21 percent raise over two years.
The Legislature created the state Judicial Compensation Commission in 2017. Its report in August was a market analysis showing what fair and competitive compensation for West Virginia’s judges should be. It showed the state’s judges ranked 53rd out of 55 states and territories in salary. Factoring in cost of living, the state still ranks in the low 40s.
“Many of our judges, believe it or not, in this state are paid below judges in Guam, American Samoa and Puerto Rico,” Sen. Mike Woelfel (D-Cabell) said during the Feb. 17 floor discussion before the vote. Not only are we 50th for many of our judges in terms of their salary level, we’re 55th, I think, with our family court judges.
“So when you go to court, you expect to have a high-level person judging your case. And, let’s face it, the compensation package that’s available to our magistrates, family court judges and circuit court judges is relevant when attracting top talent to those positions.”
The three senators who voted against the bill were Stephen Baldwin (D-Greenbrier), Robert Beach (D-Monongalia) and Eric Tarr (R-Putnam).
The fiscal note for the bill is $5.6 million over the two years.
The salary increase for state Supreme Court justices would be from the current $136,000 to $148,450 for the next fiscal year that begins July 1 to $160,901 for the fiscal year that starts next summer.
For circuit court judges, the salary would go from the current $126,000 to $137,535 on July 1 to $149,070 next year. For family court judges, the salary would jump from the current $94,500 to $104,215 on July 1 to $113,930 next summer. For magistrates, the salary would increase from the current $57,500 to $62,769 on July 1 to $68,038 next year.