ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – At the Roundhouse, the chief justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court told lawmakers that judges like her are underpaid. Chief Justice C. Shannon Bacon told lawmakers the low end of federal judges make way more than they do, with a lot less responsibility. She emphasized that they need to be paid more in order to attract quality candidates.
Under Senate Bill 2, justices of the Supreme Court would get the same pay as federal magistrate judges, who make $214,000 dollars. A legislative analysis of this bill says that would be a $33,000 pay raise for Supreme Court Justices here.
“What this bill does simply is tie trial court judges in New Mexico at the highest level, in other words at Justice Bacon’s level, the highest level of our State Supreme Court Justices, to the very lowest level of the federal system, which is a federal magistrate,” says Senator Joseph Cervantes, (D-Las Cruces), co-sponsor of the bill.
Under New Mexico law, appeals court judges get 95% of what Supreme Court justices make; 90% for District Court judges; and 85% for Metro Court judges.
“This is for us a recruitment challenge. And it’s a perennial recruitment challenge. We believe, after a lot of hard thought and study over the course of the last several years, that tethering the metropolitan court and higher judges to the federal system will help advance this recruitment challenge,” says New Mexico Chief Supreme Court Justice C. Shannon Bacon.
Those pay raises would add up to more than $5 million next year. The bill unanimously passed the Senate Finance Committee. It now heads to the Senate Floor.
This bill made it to the governor’s desk last session, but the governor vetoed it. Sponsors are confident it will be signed this time around. Right now, New Mexico has some of the lowest-paid Supreme Court justices in the country. Magistrate judges are not included in this bill, with the Chief Supreme Court justice saying there’s no shortage of interest in those positions.