Kent’s two municipal court judges will be getting a pay hike.
The Kent City Council’s Operations and Public Safety Committee agreed June 7 that annual pay for the judges should go to $193,447 from $180,614.
“This seems more than reasonable to me,” said City Councilmember Les Thomas.
Kent Mayor Dana Ralph and the municipal court administrator recommended that the council raise the pay to match salaries of district court judges across the state.
The council previously established the salaries of municipal court judges at 95% of the salary paid to district court judges. Currently, district judges make a salary of $190,120 per year, but that’s going up July 1 to $193,447.
“It does not make sense we do not pay our judges the same rate as district court judges when they do largely the same thing,” said city Interim Chief Administrative Officer Pat Fitzpatrick to the council.
The Washington Citizens’ Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials sets the pay for district judges. That group also sets salaries for state Supreme Court justices and judges sitting on appeals and superior courts as well as legislators.
The Kent Municipal Court has jurisdiction over misdemeanor crimes, gross misdemeanors and civil infractions. The cases include petty theft, DUI, simple assault, prostitution, traffic violations and other similar cases.
“They are very very similar courts,” Fitzpatrick said. “You might think municipal court is inferior, but it’s not, it’s just a different boundary. It does the same work as district court with some exceptions for civil cases.”
Fitzpatrick said Kent Municipal Court handles plenty of cases and probably is bigger than 95% of the district courts in the state.
The amendment to the city code also will increase pay per hour to $70 from $60 for a judge pro tem who fills in for the regular judges when they are ill or attending conferences.
The full council will vote on the pay increases June 21 as part of its consent calendar, which are measures passed with one vote without discussion.
Kent has two municipal court judges, Anthony Gipe and Michael Frans. Voters elected each of them to four more years when they each ran unopposed in November 2021. Mayor Ralph appointed Gipe in 2019 following the retirement of Judge Glenn Phillips and appointed Frans in 2018 after the retirement of Judge Karli Jorgensen. They each filled out the previous four-year terms of the retired judges.