* Federal Judges Starving - Need More Money
J.A.I.L. News Journal
Los Angeles - January 9, 2001
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Rehnquist Raises the Flag: Pay Judges More
By Charles Lane
Monday, January 8, 2001; Page A17
Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist has a message for Congress: The historic lawsuits that decided the 2000 presidential election tested this country's constitutional system as never before. Now, what about a raise for America's federal judges?
Rehnquist's annual report on the federal judiciary, published New Year's Day, began with the rueful observation that the election embroiled courts from Florida to the U.S. Supreme Court "in a way that one hopes will seldom, if ever, be necessary in the future."
He proceeded to an extended discussion of lagging judicial pay, a long-standing concern of the chief justice that he now calls "the most pressing issue facing" the federal courts.
Unless Congress gives judges an immediate 9.6 percent raise to make up for inflation, makes future inflation adjustments automatic and abolishes the provision in current law that ties judicial raises to increases in congressional and executive branch pay, the federal courts will lag too far behind private-sector pay and could face a debilitating loss of talent, Rehnquist contended.
"[W]e are facing a critical moment for judicial compensation," he wrote.
The chief justice's call for legislation directly boosting judicial salaries comes after the failure of a different approach to boosting judges' earning power that he supported last year. Rehnquist backed a bill, sponsored by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), that would have repealed a 1989 ban on judges' accepting outside honoraria for speaking engagements.
That provision died amid charges from Democrats and Republicans –– and some federal judges –– that the proposal had been hidden inside a little-debated appropriations bill and that, if approved, it would create an appearance that judges could be unduly influenced by the groups that paid them to speak.
Rehnquist briefly defended the proposal in his report, noting that "any honoraria would be governed by the strict standards of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges." However, he emphasized his desire to "work together" with Congress to raise judicial pay directly.
Charles Lane's e-mail address is lanec@...© 2001 The Washington Post CompanyJ.A.I.L. is an acronym for (Judicial Accountability Initiative Law)
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