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Tuesday, 02 January, 2007

A Looming Constitutional Crisis?

Just when you thought things couldn't get any worse: Low pay threatens judiciary, Roberts warns.

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.

Roberts said the judiciary will not properly serve its constitutional role if it is restricted to people so wealthy that they can afford to be indifferent to the level of judicial compensation, or to people for whom the judicial salary represents a pay increase.

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.

How much do they make?

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.

Thirty-eight judges have left the federal bench in the past six years and 17 in the past two years.

The article doesn't say how many of those left because the pay was too low.

The issue of pay, says Roberts, "has now reached the level of a constitutional crisis."


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