(Via the Indiana Law Blog) The Batesville Herald Tribune has an editorial entitled Judicial mandate not popular device. They are referring to the situation in Montgomery County where the local judges issued a mandate ordering the County Council to pay higher salaries for three classes of court employees. The newspaper’s central point is correct: County Councils have a right to be irritated by being told how much to pay a county employee.
[T]he judicial power of the state reaches from the Supreme Court at the state level all the way to the courts of general jurisdiction at the local level. So even though staffers who work for the courts are considered county employees, their pay canâ€™t be controlled by the county council.
Any other department of the County just has to suck it up when budgets are too tight and employees don’t get paid enough. I’m a little torn in the Montgomery County case. The employees seem like good, hardworking folks and it’s nice that they’ll get a raise. In addition, I know some of the judges in Montgomery County and they are not the types to issue a mandate lightly. Still, if a Sheriff feels like his deputies aren’t getting paid enough, and he suffers from high turn over of deputies because of the compensation, the Sheriff can’t simply order the County Council to fork over more money. Same with the Highway Department, the Assessor’s Office, the Surveyor’s Office, the Treasurer, you name it.
I was, however, amused by the closing paragraph:
A judicial mandate is a device that should be used sparingly, if at all. If a need is compelling, judges should be able to draw on their background of advocacy to persuade county officials to go along with the request.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a mandate where the judge didn’t first try to ask the Council for the money and persuade rather than force. Where are these counties where judges go around mandating first, asking questions later?