Time for a Raise

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The ABA has added its voice to calls for Congress to increase salaries for federal judges.

Members of the judiciary and the organized bar have had long standing concerns that judicial salaries at the federal and state levels aren’t consis­tently high enough to keep the “best and the brightest” on the bench.

But U.S. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. put the issue back on the front burner when he devoted his entire 2006 Year End Report on the Federal Judiciary to the issue of salaries for judges. Inadequate judicial salaries have become a “consti­tutional crisis that threatens to undermine the strength and independence of the fed­eral judiciary,” Roberts stated.

Paul Volcker, the former chair of the National Com­mission on the Public Service, expressed similar concerns in an article published in the Feb. 10 edition of the Wall Street Journal.

ABA President Karen J. Mathis of Denver also has voiced concerns about federal judicial salaries.

“We are at the point where the erosion in pay is clearly discouraging the best private lawyers from entering the judiciary,” Mathis said. “And increasingly, judges are leaving the bench at what should be the height of their public careers because of financial pressures.”

‘Take immediate action’

The House of Delegates backed Mathis’ statement during the midyear meeting when it approved a recommendation urging Congress “to take immediate action to enact a substantial pay increase for the federal judiciary.”

The Florida Bar was joined in sponsoring the measure by several other state bars, along with the ABA Litigation Section, the Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section and the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division.

The sponsors’ report states that federal judicial salaries have declined in real terms by 25 percent from 1969 to 2006. Meanwhile, annual cost of living adjustments have failed to help judges keep up with pay increases in other sectors.

Calling on the House to act, past ABA President Philip S. Anderson of Little Rock, Ark., said, “We must not compromise our federal judiciary by not funding it adequately.”

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