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State bar president urges judicial raises

Statesboro’s Gerald Edenfield takes case to state legislators

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State bar president urges judicial raises

State Bar of Georgia President Gerald M. Edenfield

    ATLANTA – The ever-widening compensation gap between Georgia’s judges and attorneys in private practice is threatening the tradition of the state’s “best and brightest” lawyers serving as judges, State Bar of Georgia President Gerald M. Edenfield told a special State Senate Appropriations subcommittee Monday.
    “Other than minor cost-of-living increases, the state of Georgia has not appropriated a salary adjustment for Superior Court judges, Court of Appeals judges or Supreme Court justices in the last nine years,” Edenfield, who is from Statesboro, said in support of House Bill 119. “Meanwhile, the compensation of private-practice attorneys and law school professors has continued to increase dramatically.”
    Citing the 2006 report of the State Bar’s Commission on Judicial Service, Edenfield told Senators the starting salary for a first-year associate, fresh out of law school, in the major Atlanta law firms is nearly $25,000 higher than the base salary of a Georgia Superior Court Judge.
    The average salary of an Atlanta attorney with five to eight years of experience is approximately $71,000 higher than a Superior Court judge’s base salary; $25,000 higher than a Court of Appeals judge; and $24,000 higher than a state Supreme Court justice. The average salary of the seven most senior law professors at the University of Georgia is $15,000 higher than Supreme Court justices are paid, Edenfield added.
    The Commission on Judicial Service recommended a 20-percent increase for Georgia’s Superior Court, Court of Appeals and Supreme Court judicial salaries as the first substantial adjustment since 1999. A reduced version of HB 119 was approved by the House of Representatives during the 2007 session and is now under consideration in the Senate.
    “The very future of our judicial system in Georgia depends on our state’s leaders taking some long-overdue action,” Edenfield said. “We are asking for the full 20-percent increase to be approved by both the Senate and House and signed into law by the governor.”
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