Interesting Chron story today about how state judges in Texas have gotten a lot younger on average over the past two decades. The accompanying graph really shows the trend in recent years. Factors involved in this are pay and a change in the pension rules, coupled with electoral uncertainty.
But the Texas Legislature amended the judicial pension requirements in 1985, diminishing the economic incentive to become a judge and remain one. Before the legislative change, judges could begin earning a pension after serving 12 years on the bench or after eight years if the judge had prior military service.
Now, judges must serve 20 years on the bench to qualify for a pension. Because of financial and political uncertainty, many judges do not stay on the job that long anymore.
Judges say money is often a factor in determining whether a lawyer runs for or stays with a judgeship, considering the lucrative urban market for top-notch lawyers.
A first-year associate at one of Houston's prestigious firms can earn an average of $150,000 annually, lawyers and judges said.
The average state district judicial salary is about $114,000, although county-court-at-law salaries, tied to more county benefits, average about $122,000.
"Clearly if the Legislature wants judges to spend more than a few years on the bench, it will have to pay judges at least what top-notch, first-year lawyers make," [state District Judge Mark] Davidson said.
"How much can you ask of children to sacrifice their education because you want to do public service as a judge?"