A special commission Friday voted to give state Supreme Court judges across the state a 27 percent pay raise over three years, the first wage increase for the judiciary since 1999.
Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman said in an interview that the figure is a good compromise in hard economic times.
"Are we disappointed it wasn't more? Yes," said Lippman, who advocated for the raises. "Would we want it sooner? Yes. But in these terrible times, are we pleased judges are getting raises? You bet."
State Supreme Court judges are now paid $136,700 a year. Under Friday's decision, they would be paid $160,000 next year, $167,000 in 2013 and $174,000 in 2014.
That would bring the state judges to the pay grades of U.S. district judges.
Other state judges' salaries would rise by similar margins.
The state Bar Association felt the raises were too small.
"During the past 12 years, the cost of living increased by 40 percent, eroding judicial salaries," said Vincent E. Doyle III of Buffalo, president of the lawyers' group. Yet "judges' salaries will have risen 27 percent over a 15-year period, far less than the projected inflation rate."
The judicial raises come as unions for state workers agree to no raises to avoid layoffs. But the judges have done without raises while other public workers received annual bumps of 4 percent or more with cost-of-living increases.
This will be the first raise for 1,200 state judges in a dozen years.
The commission, created a year ago by then-Gov. David Paterson and the Legislature, sought to find a way to break the gridlock in providing raises to judges. For years, the Legislature tied judges' raises to those for lawmakers, which proved to be a politically dicey proposition for legislators running for office every two years.
The commission was created to take politics out of the issue. It could still be undone by an act of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature.
The commission included members appointed by the Assembly and Senate leaders, the governor and Lippmann.