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Panel: Raises for judges proposed

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The state’s Judicial Compensation Commission is recommending that New Mexico judges – some of the lowest paid jurists in the country – see another salary bump.

The commission, which met Tuesday, has suggested a 5% inflation-adjusted increase beginning in fiscal year 2021, according to a spokesman for the Administrative Office of the Courts. On top of that, it is recommending that chief judges and the chief justice be paid 5% more than the other judges in their respective courts.

The commission last year also recommended a 5% base salary increase and ultimately the Legislature early this year raised pay by 6%. That moved district court judges to $133,757, and Supreme Court justices to $148,207. Prior to that, New Mexico ranked 49th out of 51 in district court judge salaries.

In its 2018 report, the commission wrote that the average pay for attorneys who participated in the state bar salary survey was $142,380 and raising judge salaries “will help address the need to attract a more diverse mix of experience among attorneys seeking to be judges.”

“There are few candidates with even 15 years of experience,” the commission reported. “There continue to be few candidates from private practice with experience handling contract, business or other civil matters such as divorce cases.”

Around 85% of the lawyers who applied to judicial vacancies had government experience, and attorneys working in the private sector said that pay prevented them from applying for those positions.

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