89.9 FM Live From The University Of New Mexico
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Gov gives NM judges a raise after vetoing similar proposals two years in a row

The New Mexico Supreme Court bench. Justices are poised to get an 18% raise in a 2023 bill passed by the Legislature. The governor must sign it, however, and she vetoed the court's raises last year.
NMcourts.gov live stream
The New Mexico Supreme Court bench

The third time was a charm in an effort to get New Mexico judges and justices a bigger paycheck. After vetoing proposals to increase judicial salaries two years in row, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has signed into law a 21% bump for the bench.

Supreme Court justices will now earn $232,600 per year, with the chief justice getting $2,000 more than the associates. Lower court judges other than magistrates will see a percentage of that wage. Court of appeals judges will get 95% of the chief justice’s salary, district court judges will get 5% less than them and metropolitan court judges, 5% less than that.

Going forward, however, the wages will stay flat. The vetoed legislation sponsored by Sen. Joseph Cervantes (D-Doña Ana) in past years has tied the salaries to the federal bench — so, when they got a raise, so would the state judges.

“That’s the right way to do it,” he said. “Otherwise, we’re going to find ourselves always behind the federal system, always coming back, always having to raise salaries.”

Cervantes sponsored a nearly identical bill to the one signed into law, from which he also stripped that provision in hopes of getting the governor on board. While she approved the raises this time, the governor did not say whether not connecting the state and federal wages was the deciding factor.

Cervantes said the raises will attract more qualified applicants. He told his colleagues on the Senate floor that dozens of people recently applied for a federal judgeship in Las Cruces — far more than for an opening on the state district court.

There were four applicants as opposed to 40,” he said. “And two of those had been previously deemed not qualified by the review process.”

The raises will go into effect on May 15, which means the Administrative Office of the Courts will have to come up with an extra $967,000 this fiscal year to cover them, according to a legislative analysis.The additional cost to the general fund in future years will be $6.3 million annually.

Nash Jones (they/them) is a general assignment reporter in the KUNM newsroom and the local host of NPR's All Things Considered (weekdays on KUNM, 5-7 p.m. MT). You can reach them at nashjones@kunm.org or on Twitter @nashjonesradio.
Related Content