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Initial raises reduced for North Dakota judiciary

Judges and justices said the pay increases are overdue, would bring North Dakota toward the middle range compared to other states, and would attract more candidates for judicial spots.

The Cass County Courthouse in October 2016.
The Cass County Courthouse in Fargo.
Forum file photo

BISMARCK — North Dakota's judiciary won't be getting the raises it sought, nor the levels initially approved.

The $130.6 million judicial branch budget, House Bill 1002 , is on its way to Gov. Doug Burgum's desk after clearing the state House of Representatives, 84-8, and the Senate in a voice vote on Monday, April 24.

The judiciary had asked for 20% and 15% raises in the first and second years, respectively, of North Dakota's two-year 2023-25 budget cycle for judicial officers, including the state's five Supreme Court justices and 52 district court judges. That would have cost $6.5 million.

Judges and justices said the increases are overdue, would bring North Dakota toward the middle range compared to other states, and would attract more candidates for judicial spots.

The House in February had approved 8% and 4% increases for the judiciary, which would have cost over $2.37 million.

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The Senate amended the raises down to 6% and 4%, in line with salary increases for all state employees, a change agreed to in a House-Senate conference committee and in line with what the governor advocated for raises. A governor's office spokesman has said Burgum generally does not comment on bills before they reach his desk.

Supreme Court Justice Daniel Crothers said, "I have not spoken to members of the conference committees, so I have no information about why they agreed to the lower amount." He declined further comment.

Sen. Mike Dwyer, R-Bismarck, said North Dakota's judicial salaries will be ahead of those of nearby states with comparable populations and court systems.

The justices will earn $179,312, then $186,486 in July 2024. The chief justice "is entitled to receive" an additional $5,071, then $5,274.

State district court judges will earn $164,532, then $171,113. Presiding judges are "entitled to receive" an additional $4,675, then $4,862.

Dwyer also said the budget adds 11 clerks, three judges, four law clerk attorneys, an assistant Supreme Court administrator and two court improvement positions.

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