Aug. 9, 2001 — If the presiding judge of the Territorial Court, Maria Cabret, has her way, new judges will be added to the system and all court employees will get raises.
Cabret outlined her vision for the court during Senate Finance Committee budget hearings Tuesday on St. Croix. Cabret is seeking approximately $24 million to run the local court system for fiscal year 200102. That is about what the court requested for FY 2000-01; it received just over $18 million.
Of the $12.4 million Cabret wants for personnel costs for FY 2002, about $1.1 million would provide the 265 non-unionized court employees a 2 percent raise for each year since 1994, the last year they received a hike. The lack of pay raises has caused an "untenable situation" amongst employees that has led to low morale, Cabret said.
"There is a limit to how far you can ask a person to go," she said.
Additionally, Cabret wants to see salaries for the courts seven judges increased. Judges now earn $100,000 a year. The presiding judge earns $110,000.
Cabret noted that a U.S. District Court magistrate judge, who actually has a lighter workload than Territorial Court judges, earns about $134,000, which doesnt include an annual cost-of-living increase. She recommended a $135,000 salary for Territorial Court judges, with $145,000 for the presiding judge.
Cabret also wants the Legislature to approve a proposal to add a magistrate judge to each district. The magistrate-judge would handle small claims cases, advice-of-rights hearings, marriages and other duties, freeing up other judges to handle the criminal and civil caseload, she said.
The V.I. Judicial Council, chaired by Chief District Court Judge Raymond Finch, requested approximately $400,000 to operate during FY 2002.