To the People

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or TO THE PEOPLE.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Are Federal Judges Underpaid?

Supreme Court Chief John Roberts, in his report on the federal judiciary, urges increases in federal judges' pay. His argument is based on the fact that judges can make more in the private sector.
U.S. District Court judges earn $165,200 a year, the same as members of Congress.

The dollar amount, Justice Roberts wrote, is about the same as, and in some cases less than, first-year lawyers at firms in major cities. Judges' pay would go up to $233,500 annually under a bill the House Judiciary Committee passed 28-5 on Dec. 12. "The cost of this long overdue legislation -- less than .004% of the annual federal budget -- is minuscule in comparison to what is at stake," said Justice Roberts...Federal appeals court judges are paid $175,100 annually, and their salaries would go up to $247,500. The eight associate justices of the Supreme Court are paid $203,000 annually and their salaries would rise to $286,900. Justice Roberts's salary would go up from $212,100 to $299,800.
I am open but not convinced of his argument. Associates at Skadden Arps in New York might make more than $165K but they also work 100 hour weeks proofreading boring documents and have no pension benefits and most of them are weeded out or quit before they make partner, so it is not comparable to being a sitting judge deciding interesting cases and getting a pension. Those guilty associates also live in New York or other expensive cities. Does the US really need to pay a federal judge in (hated) Iowa $233K just to keep him on the bench?

The normally "Two Americas" NYT op-ed page came out in support of this raise. So the NYT thinks it is okay for government employees to be "rich," but doesn't like when private sector employees achieve that same level of compensation, decrying the "income gap".

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