What is it with judges when they put on a robe?

Suddenly, it seems, they are omnipotent. Like Samson with a full head of hair, the judges think they can do anything.

If they want better court facilities, they issue a mandate. If they want more employees, they issue a mandate. If they want raises for their workers, they issue a mandate. And the taxpayers foot the bill.

That’s exactly what’s happening in Lake County — again.

Fourteen Superior Court judges have filed an “Order for Mandate of Funds” seeking many thousands of dollars in raises for more than 350 secretaries, bailiffs, office managers, and other personnel. The courts’ annual payroll is greater than $6.3 million.

And why are they telling the people of Lake County they want more of their money? Because they can. And because most of those employees are underpaid.

Some 900 other full-time county employees also are underpaid, but they don’t work for someone who can mandate a raise.

The judges contend they have lost employees and have trouble replacing them because of the low salaries. Tell that to someone who believes it.

This kind of reminds me of some in law enforcement who say they deserve more money because their jobs are dangerous. Of course they deserve more, but didn’t they realize the dangers of the job when they hired on?

It’s not that court employees haven’t had pay raises. They — along with all county government workers — received 3 percent hikes twice in the last four years.

And the county settled a 2014 judicial mandate by giving the court employees $300,000.

Not too many get rich working for local government. There are a lot of jobs but not enough money to provide decent wages.

At least two of the county judges — Jesse Villalpando and Elizabeth Tavitas — had the common sense to refuse to sign the mandate.

Isn’t being a jurist about fairness? I don’t see anything equitable in judges mandating pay hikes with money they don’t control.

The 14 judges who signed the mandate operate 14 fiefdoms.

The judges would do well to withdraw their mandate and take a look at their collective operations.

There was a time when they were encouraged to pool employees in a variety of job descriptions. It never happened.

Pulling an employee out of a pool when needed would help reduce the number of employees and free up money for raises. It’s not a new notion but one that could work well across the public sector, particularly in the judiciary.

Rich James has been writing about state and local government and politics for more than 30 years. Email him at rjamescolumns@gmail.com. The opinions are the writer’s.

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