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Bill to Adjust Salaries of Federal Judges Introduced in Senate
“For too long, judicial salaries have failed even to keep up with
inflation while public and private sector salaries have surged ahead,”
said Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) as he introduced S. 1638, the Federal
Judiciary Salary Restoration Act of 2007.
Leahy was joined by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT); Senate
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV); Senate Minority Leader Mitch
McConnell (R-KY) and Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Lindsey Graham
(R-SC) as co-sponsors of the bill. Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) also
recently joined as a co-sponsor.
“This bipartisan legislation has broad support,” Leahy
said. “President Bush supports a significant pay raise for judges, as
does the American Bar Association, as do the deans of 130 of the
Nation’s top law schools, civil rights groups, and others.”
S. 1638 would adjust the annual rate of salary of district
court judges to $247,800; the salaries of courts of appeals judges to
$262,700, and the salaries of Supreme Court justices and chief justice,
respectively, to $304,500 and $318,200.
Federal judges have been denied six cost-of-living
increases since 1993—increases provided for under the Ethics Reform Act
of 1989. As a consequence, a district court judge on the bench since
1993 failed to receive a total of $208,500 in statutorily authorized but
denied pay. Appellate court judges have lost even more.
Leahy observed that in 1969 a federal district court judge
earned 20 percent more than a law school dean and about 30 percent more
than a senior law professor at a top law school. “By contrast, today
top law school deans make twice as much as district court judges, and
senior law professors at those schools make nearly 50 percent more,”
Leahy said. “Many recent law school graduates will make more in their
starting salary at a private law firm than we pay to an experienced
district court judge.”
Leahy also noted that executive branch employees have been
exempt from federal salary caps and that has taken their salaries well
above those of federal judges. For example, Security and Exchange
Commission trial attorneys can earn up to $180,330; an Assistant Deputy
CIO at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency up to $206,790; and
an FDIC Chief Learning Officer up to $256,134.
“Our democracy and the rights we enjoy depend on a strong
and independent Judiciary,” Leahy said. “During the last few years it
has been the courts that have acted to protect our liberties and our
Constitution. The independence of the Judiciary is compromised, however,
if judges leave the bench for financial reasons. The quality of the
Judiciary is threatened if judges’ salaries are inadequate to attract
and retain our best legal minds. Given the essential role that the
Judiciary plays in our system of government, we should pass this raise
to judicial salaries.”