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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Should Judges Receive Loan Assistance?

Interesting question raised by Professor Michael Dorf on his blog, Dorf on Law regarding Loan Repayment Assistance Programs and why judges and clerks are currently ineligible to receive them.

Pursuing this line of reasoning further, I began to wonder whether LRAP money should be available for judges. Clearly, federal judges would be ineligible for assistance simply on income-cutoff grounds, since all federal judges earn well over $100,000 per year. We often hear arguments about whether even those salaries are too low, but I cannot imagine anyone suggesting that a federal judge should be eligible for an LRAP program. Some state judges, however, are paid quite poorly, reportedly as low as $40,000 per year in New York State and lower still elsewhere. Should they be eligible?

Certainly, any person who is earning a low salary would welcome loan repayment assistance. That, however, is true of judicial clerks, who are excluded from coverage. Judges have opportunities to leave the bench at any time to move into some seriously high-paying jobs. Perhaps the difference is that we want judicial clerks to move on, whereas we are worried about judges hitting the trail too soon. There is thus at least one good policy reason to think that subsidizing judges is better than subsidizing judges’ clerks.

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5/14/08: All Around the Blogs

ACLU Obtains More Documents Evidencing Torture – Talk Left
The ACLU have found more proof to prove torture took place in Guantanamo. Talk Left has an interesting discussion going on about this, and links the report on their blog.
Read more…

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The Future of Federal Judicial Pay

The future of a salary increase for federal judges (29 percent) appears in question as initial momentum slows. Legislation passed out of both the House (HR 3753) and Senate (S 1638) Judiciary Committees with broad support, including from Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. (see his statement in the 2007 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary). At issue are the amendments added to the Senate bill in an attempt to promote judicial ethics. James Duff, executive director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AO), remains diligent, “We continue to work with the leadership to get this crucial legislation passed in this session.” The AO posts several resources regarding federal judicial pay, as does JAS partner, the American Bar Association.

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5/2/08 – Fed Court Approves Public Financing in North Carolina

Behind the Delays in Confirming Judges – US News & Report
Article delving into the cause behind federal judicial confirmation delays, with a quote from Bert Brandenburg.

Read more…

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5/1/08 – The Return of Media Monitoring

US murky on judges’ role in reviewing Guantanamo Bay cases – The Associated Press
Article on the US government is making it difficult for Guantanamo detainees to have heir cases reviewed by judges.

Read more…

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4/11/08: What the Blogs Are Saying

Judge Kaye Goes Big, Sues New York Over Judicial Pay – Law Blog
More coverage on Judge Kaye and her suing for a pay raise, for NY judges, on the Wall Street Journal.

Read more…

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4/11/08: Justice at Stake in the Economist

Torts and courts – The Economist
A look at the Wisconsin Supreme Court election and a call for change. With a special Justice at Stake cameo.

Read more…

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3/14/08: The F.B.I Special

F.B.I. Made ‘Blanket’ Demands for Phone Records – The New York Times
A more detailed report on The F.B.I. misusing their power and subverting the judicial branch to invade the privacy of citizens.

Justices Back Pay Raise, Oppose Cameras – The Associated Press
Justices Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas went to congress yesterday and urged pay raises for federal judges, as well as other things.

Feds question court employees – The Charleston Gazette
MasseyGate, MonacoGate, or whatever you want to call it has just gotten worse now that the F.B.I. are not investigating the matter.

Bush’s conservatism to live long in the U.S. courts– The USA TODAY
Article analyzing the impact President Bush has had on the judiciary branch.

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3/13/08: The News, According to Justice at Stake

Guantanamo trial delayed amid prisoner’s protests – The Los Angeles Times
The trial for Mohammed Kamin will be postponed for a few months due to his protest of the charges.

N.M. Supreme Court removes judge – The Alamagordo Daily News
Judge J. Wayne Griego has been removed for his seat due to a ticket-fixing scandal.

Editorial: Anderson’s retirement is a loss for the state – West Central Tribune
More commentary on Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, stepping down. Russell also wants a change in the Minnesota judicial elections system.

Retired High Court Justice O’Connor Says Judges Need Higher Pay – Fulton County Daily Report
Justice O’Connor, at Georgia State University, speaks that all judges need should get pay raises.

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