Judges’ salary increase clears first round

Senators amended and advanced a bill from general file April 11 that would increase salaries for Nebraska judges as part of the state’s two-year budgeting process.

As introduced by Bennington Sen. Wendy DeBoer, LB799 would authorize an 8 percent salary increase for the chief justice and judges of the Nebraska Supreme Court. A Judiciary Committee amendment, adopted 42-0, would reduce that to a 7 percent increase in fiscal year 2023-24 and 6 percent in FY2024-25, which DeBoer said reflects a negotiated agreement between judges and the administration.

Currently, all Nebraska judges are paid using a statutory formula based on the salary of the chief justice, DeBoer said, so the increase in LB799 would result in a commensurate increase in the salaries of all other judges in the state. Fewer individuals have applied to fill judicial vacancies in recent years, she said, because of the “financial hit” they would have to take in order to serve.

“It’s my hope that with the increases in LB799 we’ll be able to attract the best and brightest to the bench,” DeBoer said.

Under the bill, Nebraska Supreme Court salaries would increase to $212,316.37 starting July 1, 2023, and $225,055.35 starting July 1, 2024.

DeBoer offered an amendment, adopted 43-0, that added provisions of three additional bills:
LB81, introduced by Grand Island Sen. Raymond Aguilar, which would increase from four to five the number of county judges in the 9th Judicial District, which serves Buffalo and Hall counties in central Nebraska;
LB260, introduced by Omaha Sen. Justin Wayne, which would align state law with the current practice of electronic publication of appellate court opinions; and
LB426, introduced by Ralston Sen. Merv Riepe, which would reduce the number of judges on the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court from seven to six.

Lawmakers voted 42-0 to advance LB799 to select file after adopting both amendments.

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