Report: Louisiana has more judges than most states, but pay is midpack

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(The Center Square) — Louisiana has by far the most judges among states with similar populations, while salaries are in the middle of the pack nationwide, according to a recent analysis from the Louisiana Legislative Auditor.

LLA Mike Waguespack on Monday issued a report at the request of lawmakers comparing selected aspects of the judiciary in Louisiana with other states.

The report found “as of June 2023, Louisiana has 219 general jurisdiction trial/district court judges, 53 intermediate appellate judges, and 7 supreme court justices.

“While other states have more judges, Louisiana has more judges per capita than states with similar populations; however, this analysis does not factor in the caseloads of courts in each state.”

The analysis compared Louisiana’s numbers to South Carolina, Alabama, Kentucky, Oregon, and Oklahoma, which all have populations between 4 million and 5.2 million. Louisiana’s population is nearly 4.6 million.

The data through July 2022 shows Louisiana’s total of 279 judges far outpaced the other states, with Oregon the next closest at 197, followed by Oklahoma with 177, Alabama with 165, Kentucky with 113, and South Carolina with 63.

The numbers translated to a rate of 6.1 judges per 100,000 in Louisiana, compared to 4.6 in Oregon, 4.4 in Oklahoma, 3.3 in Alabama, 2.5 in Kentucky and 1.2 in South Carolina.

The report notes that judicial salaries in Louisiana, like 23 other states, are set by a judicial compensation commission. In Louisiana, the commission submits recommendations to the legislature ever two years. Those salaries are protected by the constitution from reductions.

Louisiana is also only one of three states, along with Georgia and Texas, that provide supplemental pay, which is approximately $950 per month in Louisiana, paid from a Judges’ Supplemental Compensation Fund.

“As of January 1, 2023, Louisiana salaries ranked 27th out of 55 states and territories for general jurisdiction trial court judges, 17th of 51 for the adjusted cost-of-living salaries of general jurisdiction trial court judges, 27th out of 42 for intermediate appellate court judges, and 28th out of 55 for court of last resort associate judges,” auditors wrote.

The Louisiana judge salaries ranged from $168,949 for general jurisdiction trial court judges to $197,250 for the chief justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court.

Nationwide, those salaries ranged from $132,300 to $295,908, according to the report.

Other findings showed that in fiscal year 2022, $3.6 million or about 1.5% of total court expenditures of $241.3 million were for reimbursements for travel and support expenses. While states varied on methods for reimbursing judges for meals, lodging, and mileage, Louisiana uses a $118 per diem for meals and reimbursements that varies depending on several factors for lodging, according to the LLA.

All states reviewed, including Louisiana, offered judges a defined benefit retirement plan, though some also offer defined contribution plans or a combination of the two.

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