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JAM | May 10, 2023

Salaries for judiciary

/ Our Today

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Dr Nigel Clarke, minister of finance and the public service, making his opening contribution to the 2023-2024 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives in March 2023. (Photo: JIS)


Dr. Nigel Clarke speaks on judiciary salaries in Parliament

Below is the full address made by  Minister of Finance, Dr Nigel Clarke in Parliament  on salaries for members of Jamaica’s judiciary:  

Madam Speaker I rise to speak on the resolution.

Emoluments for members of the Judiciary are determined in accordance with the Judiciary (Amendment) Act 1992, which requires these be independently reviewed in three-year cycles. The last review of emoluments was done in 2020 for the period April 1, 2018 to March 31, 2021.

Madam Speaker by provisions of the Judiciary (Amendment) Act 1992, Section 4A(1), the 10th Independent Commission of the Judiciary was established by the Minister of Justice on April 1st  2022 for a period of six (6) months. By way of letter dated September 25, 2022 an extension was given for an additional six (6) months to allow the Commission to complete and present its report.

The named members of the 2022 Commission pursuant to the instrument of appointment were:

Mr. Leighton McKnight – Chairman

Ms Minna Israel – Commissioner

Mrs. Michelle Robinson – Commissioner

The Commission was appointed to: (a) enquire into the adequacy of the salaries and other amounts payable under the Act and the adequacy of Judges’ benefits generally; and (b) make recommendations as the Commission considers appropriate in relation to (a) above.

The proposals of the Tenth Independent Commission for the Judiciary are outlined below.

 In arriving at its final position in respect to salaries and other benefits, the Commissioners have been mindful of and have attempted to balance the implications of a range of matters including the following:

·      The new public sector compensation system and its implications for judicial emoluments

·      The proposal from the Judiciary in relation to adjustments to compensation levels.

·      The need to preserve judicial independence

·      The relative demand and supply dynamics in the wider legal profession and implications for pricing legal services, remuneration to lawyers and the resulting ability of the judiciary to attract talent in the medium and long term.

·      The demand for judges in other jurisdictions in the Caribbean and the pay rate which may induce ‘talent flight’.

·      The limitation that restricts Judges from practicing after leaving the bench

The Commission has recommended that all allowances with the exception of housing and security be rolled into basic salary with effect from April 1, 2022.

The recommendations of the Independent Commission for the Judiciary relate to fiscal years 2021/22, 2022/23 and 2023/24

The Constitution of Jamaica makes it clear that members of the Judiciary are not public servants. However, they are a part of Jamaican society and are not totally immune to the conditions in the country.

In FY 2021/22, Jamaica was recovering from the historic 10 per cent collapse in economic output due to the COVID-19 pandemic which also had the impact of compromising revenue inflows.

The House will recall that as a result of these developments the GOJ was not able to begin the compensation restructure in the public sector as previously planned and so within a 12 month period gained agreement with 40 public sector unions and bargaining groups to accept a 4 per cent increase in light of the constraints at the time.

As such Madam Speaker, it would breach the broader social compact in the country to which we owe our fiscal transformation, to have public servants accept this compromise and on other hand, for the same year implement transformational increases in the emoluments for members of the Judiciary.

For that reason, we propose that the compensation for the Judiciary be increased by six per cent (6%) for FY 2021/22 and we further propose that the Independent Commission recommended adjustments for 2022/23 and 2023/24 be adopted as recommended by the Commission.

This will cost the Government approximately $1.877 billion for the 2021/22 and 2022/23 arrears in addition to the 2023/24 wage bill.

I wish to remind the House, and the public, of the scholarly independence required of members of the Judiciary in addition to the requirement that they lead lives of restraint such that they retain a steely imperviousness to undue influence, from any quarter. Furthermore, unlike public servants and politicians, they are forbidden from working in Jamaica in their field of training, the law, upon retirement.

Dr Nigel Clarke

These factors, I am sure, influenced the Independent Commission in recommending these compensation levels for members of the Judiciary.

Jamaica needs an independent, strong, wise and efficient Judiciary if we are to achieve our developmental objectives

Madam Speaker, in light of this, we are pleased that, after consideration by the Regulations Committee, members of the Judiciary will finally be able to enjoy the kind of remuneration that commiserates with the nature and prestige of the job.

Dr Nigel Clarke

I thank members of the Independent Commission for the work done.


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