NY Judges’ No Pay Raise Unconstitutional–But No Remedy Ordered

Maron v. Silver, 16; Larabee v. Governor, 7;
Chief Judge v. Governor, 18;

PIGOTT, J.—The constitutional arguments raised in these judicial compensation appeals are premised upon, among other things, alleged violations of the New York State Constitution’s Compensation Clause and the Separation of Powers Doctrine. Because the Separation of Powers doctrine is aimed at preventing one branch of government from dominating or interfering with the functioning of another co-equal branch, we conclude that the independence of the judiciary is improperly jeopardized by the current judicial pay crisis and this constitutes a violation of the Separation of Powers Doctrine.

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However, when “fashioning specific remedies for constitutional violations, we must avoid intrusion on the primary domain of another branch of government” (Campaign for Fiscal Equity, Inc. v. State of New York, 8 NY3d 14, 28 [2006]). Indeed, deference to the Legislature—which possess the constitutional authority to budget and appropriate—is necessary because it is “in a far better position than the Judiciary to determine funding needs throughout the state and priorities for the allocation of the State’s resources” (id. at 29). The Judiciary may intervene in the state budget “only in the narrowest of instances” (Wein v. Carey, 41 NY2d 498, 505 [1977]), and we do not believe that it is necessary here to order specific injunctive relief. When this Court articulates the constitutional standards governing state action, we presume that the State will act accordingly.

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Full Text of Decision

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