J.A.I.L. News Journal
Los Angeles - September
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Judges Only To Be
From 1989 Ethics Reform
Bill Would End Ban on
Honoraria For Judges
By Dan Morgan
Thursday , September 14, 2000 ;
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.
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
The proposed provision, buried deep in a 2001 spending bill
passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee on July 18 and awaiting
action, would lift the restriction only for judges serving a
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.
his letter to McConnell in April, Rehnquist argued that the removal
ban is sorely needed to ease the growing disparity between the
pay of judges
and of members of the private legal profession, in which
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
However, the dropping of the honoraria ban for judges was
assailed by spokesmen for several nonprofit groups that closely
monitor judicial ethics. The ban was originally spurred by
allegations that corporations and interest groups were using
payments to lobby or influence federal officials.
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 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,
In addition, federal judges may earn up to $21,195 a year
sources, such as teaching, but not from honoraria for speeches.
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
A number of the justices are millionaires with substantial assets;
© 2000 The Washington Post Company
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