Judges, Justices Deserve Sick Leave Benefits

Monday, February 19, 2007

MADISON - The Wisconsin Academy of Trial Lawyers today called on the State Assembly to defeat legislation that would make it more difficult to attract and retain good judges by eliminating a benefit of allowing them to convert unused sick leave to health insurance at time of retirement. 

"Benefits such as sick leave are an important tool for judges and their families to receive the medical care they need.  Our government should be finding ways for more families to have access to high-quality heath care, not less," said Academy President Robert Jaskulski.  "Rather than a knee-jerk reaction by eliminating an important tool for judges and justices, the legislature should implement new mechanisms for reporting and tracking of judicial sick leave."

Unlike other state offices, judges are restricted from earning outside income in order to remain fair and impartial and therefore have no other means of receiving benefits such as sick leave.  These benefits are an important tool for judges and their families to receive the medical care they need.

"This bill stands to harm not only judges and justices, but our legal system as well," said Robert Jaskulski.  "This bill would negatively impact Wisconsin's ability to recruit and retain high-quality judges."

Private sector attorney salaries far exceed those of Wisconsin's judges.  The ability for judges to accumulate sick leave, convert it to credits and use it to pay health insurance premiums during retirement is an important benefit that attracts high-quality attorneys to become judges.  This bill also eliminates incentives for experienced, well-qualified judges to remain on the bench.  Sitting, experienced judges are more likely to return to private practice if these benefits are eliminated.

"The Academy stands with the numerous judges and justices throughout Wisconsin that work to make our state a better safer place to live and raise a family," said Jaskulski.  "Tomorrow, we hope the legislature does the same."

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