The Injured Workers Association of Utah believes State Industrial Commission administrative law judges should be paid more for their work in workmen's compensation cases.
Patrick J. O'Connor said it isn't fair for the Legislature to raise salaries of circuit, district and Utah Supreme Court judges when the administrative law judges' salaries weren't increased. He said the administrative law judges haven't had a raise for three years.Commission Chairman Stephen M. Hadley said comparing administrative law judges to circuit and district courts judge is like comparing apples and oranges. "They are part of two entirely different systems with administrative law judges being part of the State Merit System and salaries of judges recommended by the Executive Compensation Commission," Hadley said.
Hadley said the Legislature approved a 2 percent cost-of-living increase for all state employees (including administrative law judges) and some merit increases. However, there is a question over how state officials will find the money to pay for the raises.
Last week, news stories pointed to the 2 percent raise plus a 1.5 percent merit increase. Legislators also transferred $2.4 million from a long-term disability fund to cover part of that cost.
Dale Hatch, state budget director, was quoted as saying the state can take only $1.5 million from the disability fund. He said legislators didn't fund the full 2 percent cost-of-living and merit raises as claimed, but funded a 3 percent merit raise, which requires less money because it will go only to deserving employees.
O'Connor said the pay raise for judges will raise salaries to $63,750 for circuit court judges and to $76,000 for the Utah Supreme Court chief justice, but administrative law judges are making only $35,000.
"This inequity is neither fair or equitable and tends to undermine the need for efficient judicial review of cases in the Utah workers compensation and occupational disease systems," O'Connor said.
This means, he said, a circuit court judge who has jurisdiction over civil matters of less than $10,000 will make more money than an administrative law judge who handles cases involving more than $25,000 in workmen's compensation and medical expense benefits.
He is asking Gov. Norm Bangerter and legislators to make the salaries equitable, in a special legislative session, if necessary.