AUGUSTA — The chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court used her annual State of the Judiciary address to lawmakers Tuesday to press for more funding for courthouse security and higher wages for the state’s judges.

Chief Justice Leigh Saufley, left, and Gov. Janet Mills attend a Judiciary Committee public hearing on a bill to change state laws that refer to the governor and state justices by male pronouns, at the Maine State House in Augusta in April 2019. Kennebec Journal file photo by Joe Phelan

There is staffing for courthouse security screening for 65% of court days and $1.5 million is needed to pay the salaries of an additional 19 marshal positions to achieve 100% security screening, Chief Justice Leigh Saufley said.

Saufley noted that court security staff recently stopped a pair of loaded guns from getting into courthouses.

“If an individual carrying similar weapons had gone into one of the 35% of Maine’s courthouses that did not have entry screening that day, we could be having a very different conversation today,” she said.

She also said judges are due for a raise and pointed to the examples of two of them, Justices Roland Cole and Nancy Mills, who have a combined 66 years on the bench.

Cole helped to launch the state drug court and Mills created the first veterans court. Mills also established a special “languishing docket” to assure that people with mental illnesses do not spend weeks and months in jail awaiting their next proceeding.

Saufley said making their pay commensurate with judges in other states would “acknowledge the importance and the value of their excellent work,” she said.

The average salary is $133,000 for trial judges and $142,000 for supreme court associate justices, making them the lowest paid in New England by more than $20,000, according to a Maine State Compensation Commission report this month.

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