Pay raises may increase court costs

Judges would see $9,000 salary boost; state also considering increase in motor vehicle fees

? Court costs and motor vehicle registration fees would increase to finance a $9,000-a-year pay raise for judges and help fund the state’s law enforcement training center, under a proposal adopted by a legislative committee.

The proposal approved last week by the joint interim judiciary committee will be forwarded to the full Legislature when the 2006 session starts in January.

Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, a member of the committee, voted against the measure, saying that while he believed judges needed a raise, increasing court docket fees would make the legal system less accessible to the poor.

“Unfortunately, the people who need to use the court system the most often have the least means,” Davis said.

The committee approved increasing the numerous fees charged to file cases and certain legal actions by $3 million. Currently, the state collects approximately $22 million in docket fees, which are then distributed to a variety of funds.

Under the proposed increase, state judges would get a $9,000 across-the-board pay raise. Currently, state Supreme Court justices make $121,167 per year; appellate judges, $116,971; district judges, $105,815; and magistrates, $50,059.

The increase is needed to attract high quality lawyers in mid-career “who are willing to make a commitment to public service,” Riley County District Judge Meryl Wilson told the committee.

“The quality of the bench may be threatened in the near future if nothing is done to improve judicial salaries,” Wilson said.

The committee also approved recommending a $2 increase in motor vehicle registration fees to help fund the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center, which is a Continuing Education unit of Kansas University located in Reno County. The committee also said local law enforcement agencies were probably going to have to start footing a portion of the bill to send their officers to the center.

Each year, the center trains 400 new officers and provides continuing education to 2,500 more.