Judges Use Tax Dollars for Personal Items

NY Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman

NY Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman

A New York Post investigation has found that New York judges have been using taxpayer funds to pay for personal things like iPods, portraits, and trips.

Although judges get $10,000 expense allowances (double what they had gotten until this year), they also receive reimbursements for “work-related expenses.” The total of these reimbursements? More than $12.5 million per year.

The investigation found that judges have a tendency of playing it fast and loose with these reimbursements, asking the state to foot the bill for an iPod Touch, a self portrait, and “meditation retreats.”

The Post story details how two judges received nearly $1,000 in reimbursements for travel to a meditation retreat, how another judge was reimbursed more than $1,600 for taking her associates out to dinner, and how other judges charged the state for personal iPods, air purifiers, and personal photos.

The report, while slightly exaggerated, comes at a time when New Yorkers are more worried about government waste than ever. As both Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Governor David Paterson prepare massive budget cuts, there is nothing more disappointing to hear than cases of public officials misusing public funds that could have gone towards paying the salary of a teacher or fire fighter who is about to be laid off.

This is especially disappointing because the salaries of judges range from $108,000 for a city judge to more than $136,000 per year for a state judge (with $156,000 for the Chief Judge). In total, the New York Court system costs the state more than $2.6 billion per year.

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