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Chief Justice Roberts Blasts Judicial Pay

by Edward ODaniel / December 31, 2006 11:29 PM PST
Pay for federal judges is so inadequate that it threatens to undermine the judiciary's independence, Chief Justice John Roberts says in a year-end report critical of Congress.

Issuing an eight-page message devoted exclusively to salaries, Roberts says the 678 full-time U.S. District Court judges, the backbone of the federal judiciary, are paid about half that of deans and senior law professors at top schools.

Federal district court judges are paid $165,200 annually; appeals court judges make $175,100; associate justices of the Supreme Court earn $203,000; the chief justice gets $212,100.

The issue of pay, says Roberts, "has now reached the level of a constitutional crisis."
"Inadequate compensation directly threatens the viability of life tenure, and if tenure in office is made uncertain, the strength and independence judges need to uphold the rule of law - even when it is unpopular to do so - will be seriously eroded," Roberts wrote.


Have to disagree with Roberts and if there is such a huge disparity in earnings between US District Court Judges and "deans and senior law professors at top schools" it would appear that quite possibly these highly paid deans and professors are being paid too much and are simply a visible part of a larger problem -- the unnecessarily inflated cost of education.
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There aren't a lot of jobs....
by Angeline Booher / January 1, 2007 12:04 AM PST
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Judgeship as a Residency.
by James Denison / January 1, 2007 4:45 AM PST

The judges should look on their time on the bench as a residency requirement
toward moving into one of those cushy university jobs later on. We have no
need of the same ones wearing their britches or robes out on the bench forever.

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(NT) Not to mention going on TV
by Diana Forum moderator / January 1, 2007 4:46 AM PST
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Couldn't agree with him more. CJ and Supremes earning less
by Ziks511 / January 1, 2007 9:54 AM PST

than the average Doctor in a Specialty in the US is totally crazy. CJ $400,000, Supremes $350,000, and then a drop to Appeals Court, State Supreme Courts and another to Federal District Court, but if you're paying a Federal Judge less than $250,000 then you're unfairly tilting the playing field in favor of clients who can afford multi-million dollar defenses. Where's the incentive to be a judge when you can make 5 or 10 or more times as much per annum as a litigation attorney. Typical of a Civil Service wage though. A good and fair judiciary is one of the reasons to pay taxes.


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I addition to the bribery argument, a similar situation can
by dirtyrich / January 1, 2007 7:33 PM PST

be found among teachers... where the best in their fields (especially science and math) are dissuaded from teaching because of the low pay relative to jobs elsewhere. I can't cite the exact data (so those who wish can throw this statement away if you think I'm mistaken), but I remember a story showing that teachers make significantly less than professions that require a similar education.
I do not know how it is in the judiciary, but the pay discrepancy could be keeping the best minds away from taking that path.

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Actually I didn't intend to make a bribery argument,
by Ziks511 / January 2, 2007 2:05 AM PST

though heaven knows there have been cases. I guess I automatically assume their honesty and fairness, perhaps naively. I just think judges should be acknowledged as the lynch-pin (no pun intended) of the judicial system, but are far outpaid by the defense team, as are the prosecution for that matter. This creates an imbalance that I don't think existed or was intended when the judicial system in the early years of the US was established.

I agree with your points about teachers, having planned to be one myself, but it creates a far larger problem financially than does the rather limited number of judges, even nation wide. Unless people are willing to accept taxation as a "something for something exchange", which both politics and even the posts here at SE don't seem to bear out, we're at an impasse. No funds are likely to be forthcoming. Additionally there is the problem of the bureaucracies attending education, which seems to expand with little regard for the resources, meaning money, that they consume. The principle should be to get as much of the money focussed on each child, but bureaucracy is an end in itself, or seems to see itself as such, and doesn't limit its wants to the needs of the schools and the teachers. There has been much controversy up here, now mercifully laid to rest, over what was depicted as the excessively elaborate and expensive building for the Toronto Board of Education. Mostly it was Conservatives on the attack, but they had a point, though with the gradual regrowth of the school age population in the echo of the baby boom it has proved its usefulness. (BTW Conservatives are an actual political party up here, so no generic or transnational use of the word is intended.)


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Judicial pay vs legal representation
by C1ay / January 2, 2007 2:17 AM PST
Where's the incentive to be a judge when you can make 5 or 10 or more times as much per annum as a litigation attorney.

Are you saying that OJ Simpson should have had a judge that made as much as his lawyers instead of Judge Lance A. Ito?While I'm all for incentive to attract and retain good judges I don't think we should compare their pay to the millions that some clients can afford to pay whole teams of lawyers to try and get away with something.
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The biggest problem with pay
by Diana Forum moderator / January 2, 2007 12:00 PM PST

is the same problem with any civil servant. Their pay is what the taxpayers will put up with.

A rich guy can pay his lawyers a ton of money but the taxpayers will only put up with so much in taxes.


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No, I offered a pay scale that I think tolerably fair
by Ziks511 / January 2, 2007 12:56 PM PST

and which is nowhere near a million a year, let alone 5 or 10 million a year. Additionally we don't get the best judges, only the most electable, save for the Supreme Court, and State and Federal Apellate Court.

I remain baffled by the O.J. trial, as indeed do its jurors who seem to all say, "That's not what I meant to do" when questioned. I would think that there should be some way to hamstring his financial arrangements and impoverish him, but it appears that the best defense that money could buy has transformed itself into the best retirement plan ever concocted. Personally I lean toward cricket bats in a dark alley.

(Cricket bats in cross section have a rounded facial surface used to hit the ball, backed by a triangular surface and two straight narrow edges. Between the edges, the back, and that secure rubber clad grip at the top of 3 feet of willow, you have a very useful and handy implement. I did however prove that you could hit a straight pitched ball farther with a baseball bat than a cricket bat over in Britain during the wind up of a father son cricket match. Cricket balls are somewhat softer than baseballs but take a very satisfying ride any way. I actually don't remember ever getting hold of a real baseball as well as I hit that cricket ball, but if there was a time to do it, that was it. Maybe I just saw the nice red color and the white stitched seam more clearly than a plain white baseball. However I was completely out of my league when it came to real cricket where the ball is bounced off the ground about 2/3 of the way from the bowler to the batsman. A good bowler, or even a half good English amateur can make the damn' ball do almost anything using spin and that bounce off the ground, and they can do it accurately aiming at the 3 stumps behind the batsman. I was clean bowled regularly, and caught the few times I made contact. There's no time to set up properly after that bounce unless you've been schooled in the game since childhood. Additionally the rule for LBW or Leg Before Wicket is so arcane that I was called out when I just stood there, completely baffled. Still, for self-defence I trust my newish trusty Cricket bat, it's lighter and more maneuverable than a baseball bat.) Please note, no threat is here implied or intended. I wouldn't cross the street to spit on his shoes, though I would to avoid him.


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Didn't Rehnquist make the same complaint, Ed?
by Dave Konkel [Moderator] / January 1, 2007 9:59 PM PST

I seem to recall an ABA report on the subject...

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