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March 2007

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This article is in the news archives --- for current news go to the Third Branch News.


Support for Pay Increase Comes from Academia and Corporate America

Increase the salaries of federal judges. The general counsels of 60 major U.S. corporations and 130 deans of law schools sent that message in letters to congressional leaders in February.

"We agree with Chief Justice Roberts that the judicial compensation situation, dire for years, has reached a crisis point and that judicial salaries have fallen below any reasonable measure of what is appropriate," said the letter from the General Counsels. "As the Chief Justice showed in his recent report," said the deans’ letter, "although the average U.S. worker’s wages have risen 17.8 percent in real terms since 1969, federal judicial pay has actually declined 23.9 percent after inflation over the same period."

The two groups agreed with the Chief Justice’s assessment in his 2006 Year End Report on the Federal Judiciary that "if judicial appointment ceases to be the capstone of a distinguished career and instead becomes a stepping stone to a lucrative position in private practice, the Framers’ goal of a truly independent Judiciary will be placed in serious jeopardy."

"This is a grave problem," the deans wrote, "because our Judiciary is an essential guardian of our freedom, and we need the most capable people to serve, without regard to their personal financial capabilities. . . . If judges expect that they will have to leave the bench eventually for financial reasons, the independence of the Judiciary is compromised."

For the General Counsels, the issues of both judicial quality and independence are of special concern. "Each of our companies has a significant litigation docket and thus we share a deep interest in the quality of the civil justice system, both federal and state," they wrote. "We are vitally interested in a high-quality, neutral and independent Judiciary," they wrote. "We agree with Chief Justice Roberts that failing to restore judicial salaries to an appropriate level threatens the administration of justice by undercutting the quality and diversity of candidates drawn to and retained on the bench." The letter went on to urge Congress to decouple congressional and judicial salaries and significantly increase judicial salaries.

Both letters can be read on-line at  http://www.uscourts.gov/newsroom/DeansLetter.pdf