House judiciary panel approves bill to raise pay for federal judges

[JURIST] The US House Judiciary Committee [official website] approved a draft bill [HR 3753 materials] Wednesday that would increase the annual salary of federal judges in an attempt to close the pay gap between the federal judiciary and their colleagues in private practice. Under the legislation, judicial pay would not automatically be set at the same level as members of Congress, and salaries for district judges would be raised to $218,000 per year. Federal appeals judges would make $231,000 per year and associate Supreme Court justices would earn $267,900. The Chief Justice would earn $279,900.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to review the Senate version of the Federal Judicial Salary Restoration Act of 2007 [S 1638 materials] on Thursday. When introducing the Senate bill in June, sponsor Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official website] said [PDF text]:

This bill would demonstrate our respect and appreciation for our hardworking Federal judges by authorizing an immediate and substantial increase in judicial salaries. Our bill recognizes the important constitutional role judges play in administering justice, interpreting our laws, and providing the ultimate check and balance in our system of government. It is time Congress treated the Federal judiciary with the respect that a co-equal branch of government deserves.
Opponents, however, argue that the current salary level for federal district judges, which places them in the top 10 percent earning bracket, is adequate and do not believe that the issue will cause any harm to the federal bench.

US federal judges have expressed concern about the salary gap [JURIST report; AO materials], saying that judges are resigning in greater numbers than ever before due to inadequate pay. According to the Federal Judicial Pay Increase Fact Sheet [text] from the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, the pay for federal judges when adjusted for inflation has actually declined by nearly 25 percent since 1969, whereas the pay for the average US worker has increased by over 18 percent. The Legal Times has more.

 

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