Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Monday | July 6, 2009
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High court judges free to get more pay

Minister of Finance and the Public Service Audley Shaw. - File

The House of Representatives has approved a resolution cutting the link between salaries paid to high court judges and those for legal officers in the public service.

The approval frees the Government's hand to award increases to the higher judiciary, without the constraint of having to extend similar benefits to its legal officers, thus paving the way for more substantial increases for the judges.

It was one of many recommendations made by a three-member commission which reviewed the salaries of the judges, which were reported last year to be "woefully inadequate and embarrassing".

In piloting the Civil Service Establishment (general) (amend-ment) (No. 2) Order 2009, in the House on June 30, Finance Minister Audley Shaw explained that in 1993 the previous Government adopted a wage policy, whereby increases in the salary scale for legal officers in the public service were linked to the scale of increases granted to puisne judges and judges of the Court of Appeal.

However, the commission found that salary increases for the higher judiciary were at a scale which was not within the financial and budgetary constraints of the Government and, therefore, should not be extended to legal officers.

Constitutional independence

Shaw said the commission believed that salaries for the higher judiciary should not be pegged to civil service standards in order to protect its constitutional independence.

"The policy whereby the increases in salaries to legal officers in the public service were linked to the increases granted to the higher judiciary was discontinued, consequent upon the need to recognise the higher judiciary for separate treatment as a constitutional arm of government," Shaw said.

He argued that deterioration in the financial resources of Government imposes budgetary constraints that render increases to legal officers, on the scale given to puisne judges and judges of the Court of Appeal, unaffordable and contrary to proper fiscal management and good governance.

A second resolution moved by Shaw on Tuesday affirmed the Civil Service Establishment (general) (amendment) Order 2009, under which 1341 new posts were created; 198 were upgraded; 52 were reclassified; and 216 were retitled.

Shaw pointed out that most posts created would be offset by other posts that will be retired. This means that there will be no net increase in the size of the public service.

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