That’s where Hawaii trial judges rank in terms of salary compared to the rest of the states and the District of Columbia, says Hawaii Judiciary Administrative Director of the Courts Rod Maile.
“The salaries of trial judges in Hawaii, based on a 2010 cost-of-living comparison done by the National Center for State Courts, rank last, that is, 51st, of judges in all states including the District of Columbia,” Maile said.
His comment came in written testimony before the Legislature and was reiterated in an April 26 letter obtained by Civil Beat addressed to leaders in the Hawaii House and Senate.
But is it accurate that the Price of Paradise has had such an effect on Hawaii trial judge pay?
In terms of raw ranking, that placed the Aloha State in the middle of the pack, 24, compared with the rest of the U.S.
However, when the cost of living is considered, the report concludes that the “adjusted salary” for Hawaii judges is actually $81,116. Using the adjustment, Hawaii ranks 51 among the states, including the District of Columbia. The next closest salary, (also adjusted for cost of living) is $97,710, paid to judges in Maine.
(It should be noted that there’s a reason that people in Hawaii call high costs and salaries that don’t keep up with them the “price of paradise.” Many professionals, such as university professors, don’t make what their counterparts on the mainland do, but accept the lower pay in return for the opportunity to live here.)
The state with the highest paid general-jurisdiction trial court judges is Illinois. Judges are paid $178,835, but because it’s cheaper to live in Illinois, the value of that salary is actually $188,168.
As a side note, the judiciary isn’t the only industry suffering financially in Hawaii. According to a Money-Rates.com report, Hawaii tops the list of “10 worst states for making a living.”
Including analysis of average state wages, the unemployment rate, the state tax rate and the cost of living index, Money-Rates says: “No wonder there’s so much crime on Hawaii Five-0! This is undoubtedly a great place to live for many reasons, but it is a tough place for making a living. An extremely high cost of living, coupled with a fairly high tax rate, give Hawaii the lowest adjusted-average income at $22,107.96. With this adjusted average income, Hawaii residents don’t have much to put into their savings accounts.”
Finally, just in case you’re interested, federal District Court judges in the United States made $174,000 in 2010.
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