Hawaii’s state judges are among the lowest paid in the nation — and their salaries won’t be improving anytime soon given legislative pay cuts that have been extended through the end of next year.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie extended 5-percent pay cuts imposed in 2009 for top legislative, executive and judicial positions. The initial cuts represented a first-time-ever salary cut for Hawaii’s approximately 80 state judges.

As a result, most of the judiciary’s more than 1,900 employees saw their pay unchanged from last year. Unionized employees saw their salaries revert back to pre-furlough levels on July 1, 2011. But that was followed by subsequent pay cuts for those represented by the Hawaii Government Employees Association and United Public Workers unions.

Under Hawaii’s open records law, Civil Beat asked the State Judiciary for the names, positions and salaries of all employees. The request is part of a larger effort to make more transparent how the state is spending taxpayer money. For unionized employees, the judiciary provided Civil Beat with salary ranges.

The court system spends about 70 percent of its $144 million budget on payroll expenses. The judiciary’s overall budget represents less than 3 percent of the state’s general-fund budget.

Highest Paid

The judiciary functions under Mark Recktenwald, chief justice of the Hawaii Supreme Court, who is the highest paid employee of the court system with an annual salary of $156,727. Recktenwald was named to the position last fall, following the mandatory retirement of Ronald Moon. (Read a related story about other highest-paid state workers.)

A Civil Beat analysis of the salary data shows that justices and judges earn the most.

  • Chief Justice: $156,727
  • Associate Justice, four positions: $151,118
  • Chief Judge, one position: $145,532
  • Associate Judge, five positions: $139,924
  • Circuit Judge, 32 positions: $136,127
  • District Judge, 36 positions: $128,296

But, Hawaii judges’ pay lags behind their national counterparts.

The salaries of Hawaii’s circuit judges — at $136,127 — ranks dead last among other states and the District of Columbia, according to a 2011 report by the National Center for State Courts. That fifty-first lowest ranking reflects an adjustment for cost of living1. With cost of living factored in, the report found Hawaii circuit judges earn $82,134.

In terms of raw ranking, Hawaii’s circuit judges fall in the No. 24 spot in the report. Illinois trial court judges earn the most in the nation, both in terms of raw ranking ($178,835) and with cost-of-living adjustments ($186,011), the report found.

Hawaii’s high court justices — with $151,118 salaries — rank No. 23 among the states and D.C., while California’s high court justices ranked No. 1 with salaries of $218,237.

In broader terms, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says workers in the “judges, magistrate judges and magistrates” category earn a median salary of $119,260. (Federal district judges, whose salaries are not included in this database, earn $174,000.)

Here’s a look at the Hawaii Judiciary’s highest-paid employees. Note, the list includes 79 employees, but only six job titles, as many share the same title. View a searchable database of all judiciary employees at the end of the story.

Rank Last Name First Name Title Salary
1 Recktenwald Mark Chief Justice $156,727
2 Acoba Simeon Associate Justice $151,118
3 Duffy James Associate Justice $151,118
4 McKenna Sabrina Associate Justice $151,118
5 Nakayama Paula Associate Justice $151,118
6 Nakamura Craig Chief Judge $145,532
7 Leonard Katherine Associate Judge $139,924
8 Reifurth Lawrence Associate Judge $139,924
9 Foley Daniel Associate Judge $139,923
10 Fujise Alexa Associate Judge $139,923
11 Ginoza Lisa Associate Judge $139,923
12 Ahn Karen Circuit Judge $136,127
13 Alm Steven Circuit Judge $136,127
14 Ayabe Bert Circuit Judge $136,127
15 Bissen Richard Circuit Judge $136,127
16 Border Patrick Circuit Judge $136,127
17 Browning Robert Circuit Judge $136,127
18 Cardoza Joseph Circuit Judge $136,127
19 Castagnetti Jeannette Circuit Judge $136,127
20 Chan Derrick Circuit Judge $136,127
21 Chang Gary Circuit Judge $136,127
22 Crandall Virginia Circuit Judge $136,127
23 Del Rosario Dexter Circuit Judge $136,127
24 Garibaldi Colette Circuit Judge $136,127
25 Hara Glenn Circuit Judge $136,127
26 Ibarra Ronald Circuit Judge $136,127
27 Kim Glenn Circuit Judge $136,127
28 Kubo Edward Circuit Judge $136,127
29 Lee Randal Circuit Judge $136,127
30 Loo Rhonda Circuit Judge $136,127
31 Nacino Edwin Circuit Judge $136,127
32 Nakamura Greg Circuit Judge $136,127
33 Nishimura Rhonda Circuit Judge $136,127
34 Perkins Richard Circuit Judge $136,127
35 Pollack Richard Circuit Judge $136,127
36 Raffetto Shackley Circuit Judge $136,127
37 Sakamoto Karl Circuit Judge $136,127
38 Strance Elizabeth Circuit Judge $136,127
39 Tootoo Faauuga Circuit Judge $136,127
40 Trader Rom Circuit Judge $136,127
41 Valenciano Randal Circuit Judge $136,127
42 Watanabe Kathleen Circuit Judge $136,127
43 Wilson Michael Circuit Judge $136,127
44 Acoba Edmund District Judge $128,296
45 Auna Aley District Judge $128,296
46 Bartholomew Anthony District Judge $128,296
47 Cardwell William District Judge $128,296
48 Ching Jennifer District Judge $128,296
49 Florendo Joseph District Judge $128,296
50 Freitas Harry District Judge $128,296
51 Fujino Melvin District Judge $128,296
52 Gangnes Hilary District Judge $128,296
53 Hayashi Leslie District Judge $128,296
54 Iha Sherri-Ann District Judge $128,296
55 Kawano Kelsey District Judge $128,296
56 Kibe Gerald District Judge $128,296
57 Kobayashi Blaine District Judge $128,296
58 Koyanagi Faye District Judge $128,296
59 Kupau Lanson District Judge $128,296
60 Kuriyama Christine District Judge $128,296
61 Lee Lono District Judge $128,296
62 Lo David District Judge $128,296
63 Luke Linda District Judge $128,296
64 May Melanie District Judge $128,296
65 Murakami Paul District Judge $128,296
66 Nagata Russel District Judge $128,296
67 Nakashima Steven District Judge $128,296
68 Ochiai Dean District Judge $128,296
69 Pacarro Clarence District Judge $128,296
70 Remigio Catherine District Judge $128,296
71 Richardson Barbara District Judge $128,296
72 Senda Trudy District Judge $128,296
73 Takase Barbara District Judge $128,296
74 Tanaka Keith District Judge $128,296
75 Tanigawa Michael District Judge $128,296
76 Uale Bode District Judge $128,296
77 Valdriz Geronimo District Judge $128,296
78 Van De Car Lloyd District Judge $128,296
79 Viola Matthew District Judge $128,296

Below is a searchable database of all judiciary employees for the 2011 and 2012 fiscal years. You can search by first and last name, department, job title, salary range and fiscal year.

Lena Tran contributed to this story.

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