Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Are you paying this man and his colleagues far, far too much?

Good Day Readers:

Winnipeg Sun columnist Tom Brodbeck has written an excellent article (below) documenting how salaries of Manitoba's provincial judges have skyrocketed over the years. When a middle-of-the-road, going nowhere fast save to retirement member can make more than the Premier of the province you know something is wrong. It's reminiscent of those First Nations Chiefs making more than Stephen Harper.

The judiciary live a cloistered existence, in a world of their own apart from the rest of us but when it comes to looking after their own there's none better.

Below is an outline of the Manitoba Judicial Compensation Committee responsible for such outrageous salaries. You should apply as you will see it requires no highly, specialized skills yet pays a cool $210/hour.

CyberSmokeblog was e-mailed Mr. Brodbeck to complement him on his article and expressing the hope he'll do a parallel piece on federal Court of Queen's Bench Justices where the salaries and benefits are even higher. CSB suspects if he's totally ....ed off now wait until he sees the results of a follow up study.

Sincerely,
Clare L. Pieuk
Being a judge: Nice work if you can get it

Tom Brodbeck
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
It’s great work if you can get it.

Manitoba’s provincial court judges are in line for a 3.84% pay raise for the 2014-15 fiscal year — plus interest for back-pay. That’s the decree of the independent Judicial Compensation Committee, which tabled its most recent report in the legislative assembly Tuesday. If adopted, the proposed increase would bring the annual salaries of lower court judges to a staggering $239,000. The chief judge will get $258,120 and the associate chief judge will receive $250,950.

To put that into perspective, the premier of Manitoba was paid $142,544 in 2013-14. And many senior Crown attorneys were paid in the range of $140,000 to $145,000 that year.

The truth is few, if any, senior civil servants — judges or otherwise — in the Manitoba government have seen their salaries skyrocket over the years like provincial court judges have.

In the mid 1990s, judges were paid about $96,000. They topped the $100,000 mark by the late 1990s. And then their salaries took off, including pay hikes of 8% to 9% some years. For example, judges’ pay jumped to $133,000 in 2000 from $122,000 the previous year, a 9% increase in a single year.

Their salaries jumped another 25% over the next five years to $168,000 in 2005. By 2011, judges’ pay hit $218,000.

So what gives? Why have judges seen their paycheques soar the way they have over the past couple of decades?

There is no job-related reason. They haven’t seen their workloads rise dramatically nor has the complexity of the cases they hear suddenly increased.

The only reason their pay has risen as much as it has is because “independent” judicial compensation committees have argued judges’ pay should keep pace with soaring judicial salaries in other provinces. And because — at least according to them — taxpayers can afford it.

Manitoba’s Provincial Court Act states pay increases recommended by JCCs are binding if they’re equal to or below the combined average pay of judges in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Saskatchewan. So as judges’ salaries rise in other provinces, they automatically go up here. But even when JCCs recommend salary increases above those benchmarks, the courts have ruled that government has to accept them — supposedly in the name of judicial independence — unless there is some very good reason not to, and there never is.

So really, it’s a case of judges supporting the salaries of other judges. And taxpayers’ get stuck with the bill. Yeah, no conflict there.

In his most recent report, JCC chairman Michael Werier doesn’t appear to care much about taxpayers’ ability to pay these exorbitant salaries. He claims a 3.84% salary hike for judges, after 15 years of massive pay increases, is necessary to ensure judges’ pay keeps pace with those in other jurisdictions. And he argues Manitoba’s economy is healthy enough to absorb the costs.

“The province sits in the mid-range across Canada for a number of important economic indicators,” he writes. “The economic forecasts for 2014 and 2015 are of continued modest growth, but with the potential of certain risks.”

Maybe Werier should have checked with Statistics Canada when it comes to economic growth for 2014. According to StatsCan, Manitoba’s economy grew by only 1.1% in 2014, third worst in Canada and well below the national average.

Werier acknowledges the province is also running a deficit, but doesn’t seem to give it much weight.

In other words, Werier doesn’t really give a damn if the government is in deficit or if Manitoba has among the highest income taxes in the country. Judges are going to get a hefty pay increase, anyway.

I don’t mind judges being paid well for what they do. But their pay scales are way off the rails and taxpayers simply can’t afford these lavish pay hikes. Judges’ salaries should have been indexed to Manitoba’s average weekly wages so that they rise at the same rate as everyone else. That would take the politics out of it and it would prevent commissioners like Werier from making arbitrary rulings that always seem to favour judges at the expense of average working Manitobans.

Manitoba judges’ pay

Provincial court

1999 $122,000

2002 $152,000

2005 $168,000

2008 $192,166

2011 $218,000

2014 $239,000*

TOTAL INCREASE: $117,000 (96%)

* Proposed

— Judicial Compensation Committee Nov 20, 2014 report
Manitoba Justice Judicial Compensation

Committee Board Members

Chairperson
Michael Werier (1)

Members
Vic Schroeder, Winnipeg * (2)
David Shrom (3)

(1) Minister’s and Judge’s Designates
(2) Minister’s designate
(3) Judge’s designate

Mandate:

The Judicial Compensation Committee is established under The Provincial Court Act. The Act provides for the appointment, jurisdiction and compensation of provincial court judges within Manitoba.

Responsibilities:

On or before April 1, 2002 and on or before April 1 in every third year after 2002, a compensation committee, to be known as the Judicial Compensation Committee, must be appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council. The committee is established to investigate, report and make recommendations with respect to the following:

a) the salaries to be paid to

i) the Chief Judge,

ii) an Associate Chief Judge, and

iii) a judge of the court, other than the Chief Judge or an Associate Chief Judge, including Masters of The Court of Queen’s Bench and;

b) the benefits to be paid, including pensions, vacations, sick leave, disability benefits, travel expenses and allowances, to the Chief Judge, an Associate Chief Judge and a judge of the court and Masters of The Court of Queen’s Bench. To the greatest extent possible, the Judicial Compensation Committee must conduct its review in an inquisitorial manner, assessing evidence it determines is relevant and necessary to enable it to make these recommendations.
Membership:

The committee consists of three members appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council as follows:

a) one person designated by the Minister of Justice;

b) one person designated by the judges of the court; and

c) one person, who shall act as chairperson, designated by the members who are designated under (a) and (b). If the designates cannot agree on a neutral chairperson, the chairperson shall be selected by the Dean of the Faculty of Law of the University of Manitoba.

Length of Terms: Within 180 days after the compensation committee is appointed or such further time period as may be necessary and allowed, it must give its report, including recommendations, to the minister, the Chief Judge, the Associate Chief Judges and the judges of the court.

Desirable Expertise:

There are no formal requirements under the Act, however committee members should have a sound understanding of the law. Members should also possess a thorough understanding of the judicial systems in Manitoba, especially the provincial court system and the roles of the Chief Judge, Associate Chief Judges, puisne judges and Masters of The Court of Queen’s Bench. There is no formal educational requirement; however, potential board members should be legally trained and able to demonstrate an understanding of compensation issues including but not limited to issues of salaries, benefits, pensions and expenses.

An effective board member must be able to read and understand complex, legal and financial written material, analyze written and verbal information in order to ascertain facts, and apply relevant legislation to this written and verbal information in order to make effective recommendations on compensation matters for judges.

Board members must:
  • possess a high degree of verbal and written communication skills including the ability to conduct a review in an inquisitorial manner;
  • have the ability to assess evidence and determine its relevance and necessity;
  • possess active listening skills;
  • be able to read and interpret legislation and how it applies to the compensation of judges;
  • adhere to a high degree of confidentiality;have the ability to make decisions in a fair and unbiased manner
Time commitment: The committee members must be able to devote sufficient time during the 180 day period or such further time period as may be necessary and allowed to convene hearings, evaluate information and complete a written report on the committee findings and recommendations.

Meetings: Meetings typically take place in Winnipeg.

Remuneration: Chair and Members: $210.00 an hour and reimbursement for expenses. (emphasis CyberSmokeBlog)


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