Gavel Grab

No Bail-Out for Federal Judges

An unlikely plan to include pay relief for federal judges in  the auto-industry bail-out is now off the table, congressonal leaders have declared.

According to an Associated Press article, “Democratic officials … said the judicial pay provision was draining votes from the already teetering bailout measure,” adding:

The development came after freshman Democrat Claire McCaskill of Missouri announced on the Senate floor she would oppose the bill unless the pay provision, which would give federal judges a raise of almost $5,000, is stripped from the auto bailout.

“Wrong time. Wrong place,” McCaskill said. “We have the highest unemployment in this country that we have had in decades…. Federal judges get lifetime appointments, and they never take a dime’s cut in pay.”

U.S. district judges currently earn $169,300, the same as members of Congress. But without specific legislation, judges will not get the same $5,000 Cost-of-living-adjustment on Jan. 1 that lawmakers will receive.

Pay raises for federal judges has been a major issue of contention in recent years. Some  issues are captured in the Legal Times blog earlier this year.  The Senate passed a pay raise bill last year, but the House never voted to approve the measure.

In March, Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Anthony Kennedy warned a House subcommittee that a ‘constitutional crisis’ is at hand, saying that many federal judges are vacating their seats for more lucrative private sector employment.

The following analysis of federal judicial pay, from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, shows the extent to which salaries have failed to keep pace with  inflation.

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