Are Illinois Supreme Court justices overpaid? That’s the question one state senator had for the Illinois Supreme Court during an Appropriations Committee hearing.

State Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-North Aurora, said a recent report from the National Center for State Courts indicates Illinois’ Supreme Court justices are the second-highest paid in the country with a salary of nearly $221,000.

“In looking out a few years, in another 15 to 20 years, Illinois Supreme Court justices could be making more than United States Supreme Court justices,” Oberweis said.

Michael Tardy, director of the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts, said that because Illinois is the fifth-most populous state, he believes compensation levels for justices are appropriate.

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“These people have the highest level of legal degrees,” Tardy said. “They have doctorates. They come to the court with years of experience in the bar and years of experience on the bench.”

Oberweis asked Tardy whether justices, as state employees, have a conflict of interest when they rule on issues regarding state employee pay and benefits. Tardy said he wasn’t qualified to comment on that matter.

Meanwhile, an effort to create regional courts to tackle mental health and drug abuse problems is underway.

During a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing last week, Tardy said there’s an effort to address the lack of problem-solving courts in some rural areas.

“We’re looking, certainly, at consolidation of multiple county problem-solving courts,” Tardy said. “You can also have a problem-solving docket.”

State Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Champaign, said he’s been trying for years to have multicounty problem-solving courts for the rural areas that lack them, but found resistance.

“So I’m glad to see that a decade later we’re going to make some progress,” Rose said.

Problem-solving courts are credited with helping offenders who have substance abuse and mental health issues stay out of Illinois correctional facilities.