County Commissioner Tim Boyd said county magistrates, who now make $65,000 per year, should get a big raise after they were informed they can no longer have a civil practice.
In the past, the magistrates have been told not to handle any criminal cases, but they are free to do civil matters. The state court system recently ruled that they are judges and cannot practice law on the side at all.
As a result, Commissioner Boyd said he has been comparing their pay to some in the county attorney's office who make $83,000 to $103,000. He said five court clerks make between $93,000 and $100,000.
Commissioner Boyd said, "They are on call 24/7. Their operation never shuts down."
The magistrates set bonds and sign warrants from a small office at the jail, where prisoners are booked.
He said higher pay would insure top-quality magistrates and also help the county avoid liability issues.
The plan is to raise two magistrates who come up for reappointment in May from $65,000 to $80,000 (if they are again chosen for the post).Adjustments would be made for the other magistrate spots as they come up for re-appointment. They are under one-year contracts.
Commissioner Jim Fields questioned the need for the move, noting that commission members have not been told that any magistrates plan to quit over the pay issue.
He said each time the job is advertised a number of candidates come forward.
Commissioner Graham said the magistrates already get pay increases when other county employees do. He said giving such a jump to one group of employees is unfair to others.
He suggested that the commission take a new look at the whole magistrate program. One idea, he said, is to have a single full-time chief magistrate who would utilize private attorneys to fill in when he or she is unable to cover.