SIDE | BAR
Senate Committee to Study Judicial Pay, Voting
By Angela Morris, Texas Lawyer
t. Gov. Dan Patrick recently announced that he has tasked a Senate committee with studying
judicial pay raises and eliminating straight-party voting for judges, among other things.
Senate committees will study a slew of interim charges in 2016 and write reports or suggest
bills for the Texas Legislature to consider in 2017. One of Patrick’s charges for the Senate State
Affairs Committee, which deals with civil justice and court-related bills, is to “examine the need
to adjust Texas judicial salaries to attract, maintain and support a qualified judiciary.”
No one from Patrick’s press office returned a call seeking comment before deadline.
The legislature in 2007 created the Judicial Compensation Commission to study judge salaries and
recommend raises. In 2013, the commission recommended a 21 percent raise. In the first judicial raise
since 2005, lawmakers approved 12 percent. But an effort to increase judges’ salaries again this year failed.
Pat Mizell, a member of the Judicial Compensation Commission, said it’s positive to
see lawmakers preparing to
discuss judicial pay. He said
he hopes they realize that they
need to bump the salaries to
get Texas judges’ pay in line
with that of other states.
“It’s a quality of the judiciary
issue. Judges will never make
what private lawyers make,
but the salary can’t be so low
that people simply won’t take
the job because they can’t
make a basic living out of it.
We think that if the salaries are
fairly adjusted upward, it will
attract high-quality people to
the job,” said Mizell, a partner
in Vinson & Elkins in Houston
and the 1995-2002 judge of
Harris County’s 129th District
Patrick also asked the State
Affairs Committee to study
and recommend whether Texas should “delink legislators’ standard service retirement annuities from district
Mizell explained that having lawmakers’ retirement linked to judges’ salaries creates a political problem.
A lawmaker might be accused of voting to raise his own retirement benefits whenever he votes to increase
judicial pay, explained Mizell.
Under Patrick’s charge, the State Affairs Committee will also look at the impact of eliminating straight-party
voting for judicial candidates.
charge, the State
will also look
at the impact
voting for judicial