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New perks for judges

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Judges of the Supreme Court are set to get a substantial increase in their take-home package, which includes a hefty increase in their housing allowance and money to travel overseas for judicial conferences, top judicial sources have disclosed. The latest recommendations of Salaries Review Commission (SRC) also were discussed at yesterday’s meeting among judges at the Hall of Justice, Port-of-Spain.



Top legal sources said the SRC has recommended substantial increases to the salary, housing allowance, travel grant and judicial contact allowance for Chief Justice, Justices of Appeal and High Court judges. The 98th report of the SRC was scheduled to be laid in the House of Representatives last Friday but has been deferred to this Friday, sources said. The Chief Justice, according to sources, is set to receive a total increase of over $20,000. He currently earns over $60,000 tax free. 


Appeal Court judges are set to receive an almost $22,000 increase, moving from an almost $48,000 monthly earning, while High Court judges are to receive a similar increase, judicial sources said. Among the big changes, sources said, was an increase in the $10,300 housing allowance for Appeal Court and High Court judges, which is set to move to $24,000. Judges of the Supreme Court have long contended that they are entitled to a “super grade” housing allowance. 


They had argued that in the past judges were allotted houses in Federation Park, Port-of-Spain, under the then People’s National Movement administration, as part of their terms and conditions. However, under the National Alliance for Reconstruction reign in the 1980s, those judges who then occupied houses at Federation Park were given the option to purchase the houses while new judges were given a housing allowance.


Judicial sources said given the precedent where once something was given to Supreme Court judges it could not be taken away, as it would seem to be undermining the independence of their office, judges had come together to raise funds to seek a legal opinion from a British Queen’s Counsel on the issue of them being paid a housing allowance that would afford them to occupy “super grade” houses. 


That opinion, together with the legal opinion from a local Senior Counsel, concluded that judges were entitled to such an allowance and the judges at one point even contemplated taking legal action to get it, judicial sources said. The State had maintained a fully furnished official residence at St Clair for the Chief Justice, the nation’s third highest office holder but that house was sold in December 1997 for just over $7 million. 


Since then, the State has rented private accommodation for the sitting Chief Justice at Goodwood Gardens, Glencoe, for a monthly rent of close to $60,000. One of the largest increases judges are set to receive, sources said, was an allowance to attend overseas conferences. That figure is set to jump from just under $10,000 to close to $120,000 a year.


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