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***Judges To Be Exempt From 1989 Ethics Reform Bill?

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    J.A.I.L. News Journal Los Angeles - September 30, 2000 ____________________________________________________ Listen to HotSeat4Judges daily on Internet Radio
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 1, 2000
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      J.A.I.L. News Journal
      Los Angeles - September 30, 2000
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      Judges Only To Be Exempt
      From 1989 Ethics Reform Bill?
      Bill Would End Ban on Honoraria For Judges

      By Dan Morgan
      Washington Post Staff Writer
      Thursday , September 14, 2000 ; A01

      Responding to a private plea from Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist for "economic relief" for judges, leading Senate Republicans have inserted a provision in a pending appropriations bill that would end an 11-year ban on speaking fees for members of the federal judiciary.

      The proposal, requested by Rehnquist in a letter to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) earlier this year, would drastically alter a 1989 ethics reform that prohibited honoraria for members of Congress, judges and senior officials of the executive and legislative branches. In theory, the move could net Supreme Court justices and other well-known judges tens of thousands of dollars in extra income annually.

      The proposed provision, buried deep in a 2001 spending bill passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee on July 18 and awaiting final
      action, would lift the restriction only for judges serving a lifetime
      appointment. Under the measure, federal judges could collect money for appearances under guidelines and limits that would be determined by the Federal Judicial Conference, the judiciary's own policymaking body.

      In his letter to McConnell in April, Rehnquist argued that the removal
      of the ban is sorely needed to ease the growing disparity between the
      pay of judges and of members of the private legal profession, in which
      first-year salaries at blue-ribbon New York law firms are now reaching

      "It is to the point that in today's legal market a first-year associate
      in a law firm could make as much in salary as a federal judge,"
      Rehnquist said. The disparity, he warned, harms the ability of the
      judiciary to recruit and retain the most capable lawyers.

      Independent judiciary sources noted yesterday that the 1989 ban on
      honoraria was coupled with a commitment to adjust judicial salaries
      annually for inflation. That has not occurred.

      However, the dropping of the honoraria ban for judges was quickly
      assailed by spokesmen for several nonprofit groups that closely monitor judicial ethics. The ban was originally spurred by widespread
      allegations that corporations and interest groups were using the
      payments to lobby or influence federal officials.

      "Totally unacceptable and outrageous," said Meredith McGehee, senior vice president of Common Cause. "To have judges go down that path where impartiality is supposed to be the hallmark of our judicial system is wrong."

      "Companies will be lining up to cut the judges' checks," said Mike
      Casey, vice president of the Environmental Working Group, which has
      teamed up with another nonprofit organization, Community Rights Counsel, to disclose how corporations have used junkets for judges to influence environmental litigation.

      "It's shocking, it's wrong and it makes the judges look greedy," he

      The annual salary of the U.S. chief justice is $181,400, and the eight
      associates make $173,600. The salaries of federal appellate court judges and district judges are $150,000 and $141,300, respectively.

      In addition, federal judges may earn up to $21,195 a year from outside
      sources, such as teaching, but not from honoraria for speeches. The
      judges may also accept all-expenses-paid travel and accommodations at educational or professional events.

      In 1995, the Wall Street Journal detailed the extended expenses-paid
      trips of a number of Supreme Court justices to the French Riviera, the
      Austrian Alps, Spain and other watering spots.

      A number of the justices are millionaires with substantial assets; ....
      © 2000 The Washington Post Company
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