JONESBORO — Clayton County commissioners spoke volumes about a pay raise request for Superior Court judges without saying a word Tuesday.
When a resolution asking state legislators to raise the judges local pay supplement by $18,000 was presented to commissioners, no one would make a motion to either approve or reject it. Since no motion was made, the request died without the commission taking a vote on it.
But some members of the commission said that shouldn’t be taken as a slight against the judges. They are also looking at the thousands of people the county employs, and that the fact that those workers have not received pay raises in several years. Some commissioners said the county can’t afford to raise every employee’s pay at this time.
“As an attorney, I think judges are underpaid because I see their caseloads, but as an employer of the county, I recognize that no employee has received a pay raise for a number of years,” said Vice-Chairwoman Shana Rooks. “If one group gets an increase, then everybody should get an increase.”
Clayton County’s four Superior Court judges have the second highest caseload averages out of 14 dockets listed in county documents for comparison purposes. They had an average of 2,525 cases a piece in 2011, according to a chart presented to commissioners this week.
DeKalb County’s Stone Mountain court circuit, which has 10 judges, had the highest average with 2,657 cases per judge.
In 2011, there were a total of 10,100 dockets in Clayton County Superior Court, according to the county’s chart. That number dropped to 9,976, the document shows. It was the eighth highest number of dockets two years ago.
By comparison, the Augusta court circuit, which has eight judges, had 13,207 dockets in 2012. That was the fifth highest number of dockets that year, yet it’s judges had the highest local supplement in the state at $65,100 per judge.
The local supplement for Clayton County’s Superior Court judges is $37,000.
“We appreciate everything the judges do and the jobs that they do in this county,” said commission Chairman Jeff Turner. “They do a tremendous job, have a heavy workload and they represent the county well. At the same time, we have 2,000-plus employees who are doing the same thing and they are just as deserving [of a raise].”
With the commission’s inaction this week, the likelihood of legislation being drafted this year to raise the supplement is virtually nonexistent, according to one legislator. Although local legislation does have a few more days than general legislation to cross over from one Georgia General Assembly chamber to another, the window is still tight.
Before the commission meeting, state Rep. Mike Glanton (D-Jonesboro) said the Clayton County Legislative Delegation has until Legislative Day 35 to get the legislation passed out of one chamber and sent to the other. However, the delegation wants the commission’s blessing first.
If county leaders didn’t approve the request this week, their next opportunity to consider it would be at their meeting scheduled to be held March 4. By the time that meeting begins, the General Assembly will have already wrapped up Legislative Day 31.
If it passed at that meeting, the local delegation would have four days to officially receive the request, get legislation drafted in one chamber of the assembly, get it read for the first time and assigned to a committee, get that committee to approve it, then get it approved by that chamber’s Rules committee and get it passed by the full chamber to have a shot at staying alive.
“That’s not enough time to get it done,” said Glanton.