Fair Pay for Federal Judges
Issue Summary & History:
The effectiveness of our federal courts depends on our ability to attract the most exceptional lawyers to become federal judges and then keep them on the bench to administer our laws. Traditionally, this has been relatively easy because of the importance and prestige of a federal judicial appointment. Today, however, the federal judiciary faces a simple but escalating threat: judicial pay has not kept pace with pay in other comparable areas and too often both nominees and sitting judges face an awkward choice between economic security for themselves and their families or continued public service to the judiciary.
Consequently, an exceptionally broad range of businesses, bar associations, and other organizations have urged Congress to immediately and substantially increase salaries for federal judges.
In calling for an immediate and substantial increase in judicial pay, the National Commission on the Public Service (the Volcker Commission) concluded a few years ago that, “judicial salaries are the most egregious example of the failure of federal compensation policies” and noted that judicial salaries lag behind the salaries of other nonprofit leaders with whom judges might be compared. Federal judges have received only two significant pay increase in the last twenty years and have been denied cost of living adjustments in six of the past twelve years. Since 1969, the real buying power of federal judicial salaries has declined by approximately 25 percent while the real buying power of the average American worker’s pay has increased by some 18 percent. Federal judges now earn about the same – and sometimes even less -- than many former judicial clerks earn in their first year at a law firm. These judges often earn far less than a wide array of highly compensated federal employees in the federal executive branch, including independent agencies.
The letters, testimony and bar resolutions below argue that it is past time to bring federal judicial pay up to a level that will continue to attract and retain judges of extraordinary capabilities who have diverse backgrounds, experiences, and expertise, and that the future of the law depends on it.
For example, on June 15, 2007, Senator Leahy, on behalf of himself, Mr. Hatch, Mr. Reid, Mr. McConnell, Mrs. Feinstein, and Mr. Graham introduced S. 1638, the Federal Judicial Salary Restoration Act of 2007, a bill to adjust the salaries of Federal justices and judges. [Link to S. 1638] For more information on this critical issue please browse the links below.
Federal Bar Association Letter: 09/27/2006
Deans Letter Signed by 129 Law School Deans: 02/14/2007
American Board of Trial Advocates Statement: 03/05/2007
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Letter: 03/16/2007
Los Angeles Federal Bar Association Statement: 03/23/2007
Intellectual Property Owners Association Resolution: 03/28/2007
Corporate Counsels Letter Signed by General Counsel of 60 Major U.S. Corporations: 04/03/2007
Los Angeles County Bar Association of California Letter to Representative Berman: 04/17/2007
American Association for Justice Letter: 04/18/2007
Association of Business Trial Lawyers Letter: 04/18/2007
Sierra Club Letter: 04/18/2007
Asian American Justice Center Letter to Representative Berman: 04/19/2007
Asian American Justice Center Letter to Senator Durbin: 04/25/2007
Asian American Justice Center Letter to Senator Leahy: 04/25/2007
Asian American Justice Center Letter to Representative Scott: 04/25/2007
Asian American Justice Center Letter to Representative Watt: 04/25/2007
Business Software Alliance Letter to Senators Leahy and Specter: 05/01/2007
Business Software Alliance Letter to Representatives Conyers and Smith: 05/01/2007
The Bar Association of San Francisco Letter: 05/04/2007
ABA Section of Business Law Letter: 05/08/2007
Los Angeles County Bar Association of California Letter to Senator Leahy: 05/10/2007
La Raza Lawyers Association of California Letter: 05/11/2007
Lawyers for Civil Justice Letter: 05/21/2007
U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform Letter to Senators Leahy and Specter: 05/29/2007
U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform Letter to Representatives Conyers and Smith: 05/29/2007
West Virginia AFL-CIO Letter: 06/01/2007
Association of Corporate Counsel Letter to Senators Leahy and Specter: 06/11/2007
Association of Corporate Counsel Letter to Representatives Conyers and Smith: 06/11/2007
Testimony of Justice Stephen Breyer: 04/19/2007
Testimony of Justice Samuel Alito: 04/19/2007
Exhibits of Justice Alito Testimony: 04/19/2007
Resolution of the State Bar of Nevada in support of judicial pay increase: 05/23/2007