Editor’s note: One of Civil Beat’s most popular features, the database of public employee salaries, is taking shape for the 2020 fiscal year, which began July 1. We update the salary database when new union contracts are signed and new budgets are put in place reflecting salary increases.

Mark Recktenwald is used to presiding over legal disputes, but he had to go to battle himself when he felt the state wasn’t providing sufficient pay raises for its 129 judges.

The chief justice of the Hawaii Supreme Court argued in March that proposed $1,000 annual pay raises for judges over the next six years wouldn’t even keep pace with the cost of living in the islands. He said that would make it more difficult to recruit and keep good lawyers on the bench, because experienced attorneys in private practice can earn substantially more.

Ultimately the Hawaii Commission on Salaries upped the increases to $2,000 annually for the next six years, about a 1% annual increase.

The first installment of those raises appear in the latest addition to the public employee salary database: the Hawaii State Judiciary. Although they will be getting only half of what Recktenwald sought, judges in general are by far the highest-paid among the court system’s 1,922 workers.

Click here to load this Caspio Online Database.

Since 2010, Civil Beat has been publishing databases with information about tens of thousands of public employees. Salaries are a major component of state and county budgets and we think it’s important for taxpayers to know how their money is being spent.

Recktenwald is the highest paid judge at $238,104. Two years ago during the 2018 fiscal year, he got $231,468, illustrating that past annual raises have been higher than the new ones.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald speaks at Salary Commission meeting.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald speaks at a Hawaii Salary Commission meeting.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Four associate Supreme Court justices, Sabrina McKenna, Paula Nakayama, Richard Pollack and Michael Wilson, are paid $229,668, up from $223,200 two years ago.

At the Intermediate Court of Appeals, Chief Judge Lisa Ginoza is paid $221,256. Two years ago, then-Chief Judge Craig Nakamura made $214,956. Five associate judges receive $212,784, up from $206,052 two years ago.

Twenty-seven Circuit Court judges are paid $207,084, compared to $201,060 two years ago.

There are 91 District Court judges, with the 36 full-time ones getting $195,276, up from $189,480 two years ago.

The other 55 are per diem judges paid $775 for each day worked. They can still engage in private practice as well. Because of their unique pay scale, they do not appear in the database.

The highest paid Judiciary employee who doesn’t wear a black robe is Rodney Maile, administrative director of the courts. He gets $162,552, up from $151,776 two years ago.

Next comes Brandon Kimura, Maile’s deputy, who gets $154,424. Two years ago, the position was worth $144,187 to Iris Murayama.

The lowest paid Judiciary employee is a student assistant making $21,008.

A critical time for local journalism . . .

Over 1,800 daily and weekly newspapers in the U.S. have ceased operations since 2004 — among them the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and the Honolulu Weekly. Studies have shown that when local journalism disappears, government financing costs go up, fewer people run for public office, elected officials become less responsive to their constituents, and voter turnout decreases.

 

Our small nonprofit newsroom works hard every day to present local news in a deep and transparent way, without fear or favor.

 

We also rely on donations from readers like you to keep us afloat. The more support we receive; the stronger, more sustainable our journalism becomes; the more accountable we are to you. Please consider supporting our small newsroom with a tax-deductible gift.

About the Author