Chief Justice John Roberts said Wednesday that Congress should be as generous to judges as it already has been to itself, by approving an inflation-related increase in their pay.
"I must renew the judiciary's modest petition: Simply provide cost-of-living increases that have been unfairly denied," Roberts said in his annual year-end report on the federal judiciary.
Federal trial judges are paid $169,300 a year. Appellate judges make more, ranging up to Roberts' salary of $217,400. The salaries pale in comparison to what top lawyers earn in private practice.
Well, now. What can I say?
Lifetime appointment. Full salary after retirement. The most powerful judicial position in the nation. Best healthcare coverage in the country. Good parking spot, I'd imagine.
But, he's right, he could certainly make a hell of a lot more dough in the private sector.
So, here's my advice to you, John Roberts: Go for it! Climb that financial ladder! Resign from your current, dead-end job (after all, there's not much room for advancement since you're already the Chief Justice!) and go for the big bucks in a private law firm!
Of course, you don't want to burn any bridges with your current employer, so like any wise employee, make sure to give them a full 2 weeks notice before your resignation. To be on the safe side, perhaps make it a bit longer--say, oh, 3 weeks instead...
After all, I'm sure that they'll find SOMEONE to replace you...
UPDATE: Quite a few people in the comments have noted that a) Roberts is calling for a COLA increase for all federal judges, not just the SCOTUS, and b) that $217K isn't that much money, all things considered.
These are both true. HOWEVER, I'm sorry, but lifetime job security, full salary after retirement, full lifetime medical/dental/etc benefits, and a near-guarantee of fat speaking fees/book deals for most of 'em (presumably after retirement) make it difficult to cry too much. Plus, the article says that the low end of the range if $169K. Still not exactly chicken feed.
I'm not saying that they should never get a pay increase--if they were still making, say, $50K/year or whatever it was 40 years ago, I'd be a lot more sympathetic, and $150-$200K certainly isn't what it used to be--but it's still a buttload of money given all the other perks and the guarantee of never losing your job until you want to. Plus, given the current financial disaster, millions losing their jobs and homes, this is the worst possible timing for ANYONE making six figures to be griping about their pay.
Update x2: Rec'ced, cool, yadda yadda...
For what it's worth, here's a list of the official salaries of some other top-level federal employees:
As president, Bush makes $400,000 and gets additional money in various expense accounts. Cheney makes $208,100 and also has expense accounts. In September 1999, President Clinton signed legislation that increased the presidential salary to $400,000, effective January 2001. The Constitution prohibits pay raises for sitting presidents. This presidential pay raise was the first since 1969, when the president's salary was raised from $100,000 to $200,000. Adjusted for inflation, $200,000 in 1969 would be worth $930,232 today. On top of the salary and expense accounts, both the U.S. president and vice president are given free housing with plenty of amenities. The White House has 132 rooms, 32 bathrooms, a movie theater, bowling alley, billiards room, tennis court, jogging track and putting greens. Bush also has use of Camp David, the presidential retreat. Cheney lives in Number One Observatory Circle, which has been the official vice presidential residence since 1974.
Congress receives frequent pay raises. Since 1989 a cost of living increase takes effect each year unless Congress votes against it. Pay for the average member of Congress has more than doubled in the past 20 years. For example, the average salary in 1983 was $69,800 and $141,300 in 2000. However, if you were to adjust the 1983 salaries for inflation, members of Congress made $119,708 in 2000. As of January 1, 2005, members of Congress make $162,100. The president pro tempore of the Senate and the majority and minority leaders of both houses are paid $180,100. The speaker of the House of Representatives makes $208,100.
Here's the thing, though: NO ONE goes into ANY of these positions for the official salary. Anyone who becomes POTUS, SCOTUS, a Cabinet member, a Senator, hell, even down to the lowliest first-term Congressman knows damned well that even a single term in office will likely be their ticket to all sorts of other more lucrative situations--book deals, talking head gigs, lobbying spots, speaking engagements, yadda yadda yadda.
Hell, look at Joe Scarborough. He was a member of the House for what, one term, but that was apparently enough to score him a presumably far-more lucrative gig at MSNBC. I have no idea what Mike Huckabee made as Gov. of Arkansas, but I'm sure he's making a hell of a lot more with his FOX show/book sales/etc. And don't get me started on how much Bill Clinton has raked in since leaving office.
Not saying any of this is wrong, just that there's hardly any call to feel sympathy for our poor, underpaid federal judges/legislators/executives. They're doing just fine, thank you very much.
Update x3: Good heavens. Not just Rec'ced, but TOP of the list? Yeeks. I'm flattered, but honestly, as I said in my response to Angry Mouse below, I actually don't think the diary itself is worthy of that. On the other hand, the discussion about the relative dollar value of public service positions vs. private sector, etc. most definitely is worthy of discussion, and I suspect that's the real reason this diary is being rec'ced, so...carry on!
As for myself, I find the "we have to pay a high salary to prevent them from taking bribes" argument is bullshit. If they were making $40K or whatever, that might be valid, but anyone who makes over $150,000/year and still considers taking bribes is gonna do so no matter how much you pay them. There's a difference between corruption due to desperation and corruption due to lack of character. Look at Bush and Cheney--they were both worth millions before taking office and still proved to be the most corrupt assholes we've elected. Do you really think that paying Bush $4 million/year instead of $400K would make any difference (other than him laughing even harder at our gullbility)?
As for the "high salary = better quality of judge", says who? There are plenty of highly-skilled, intelligent and wise lawyers/judges with integrity out there who don't make a fortune who would jump at the chance to have the prestige, authority, recognition and a $150K+ salary guaranteed for life!
UPDATE x4: OK, OK; The original title of this diary was "SCOTUS Chief Justice Roberts whines about his $217K salary". I've finally changed the title to reflect the fact that Roberts was referring to all federal judges, not just himself, and, more significantly, the larger nature of the ensuing discussion about the relative dollar value that should be accorded to SCOTUS and other judicial positions. I still hold that $160K/year or more plus full lifetime benefits should be more than ample for any honest, qualified, dedicated public servant, but I understand some of the opposing points of view.
Update x5: OK, things have turned a smidge ugly below. Several people are now trying to claim that I hate lawyers and/or judges, that I think all lawyers/judges are greedy/evil/etc, bla bla bla.
Bullshit. NOWHERE in my diary or any of my comments have I ever ripped on lawyers or judges in any way. I think they both serve an important function, and deserve to make a decent living. Everyone bitches about lawyers until they need one, etc etc; I agree whole-heartedly. None of that has anything to do with this diary, no matter what some comments by others may claim.
FINAL UPDATE (x6): After thinking over some of the more thoughtful comments from the opposing POV, I hereby declare that I'm not as certain of my position as I was this morning. Will have to ponder the issue further, but as the diary is about to fall off the Rec list, I wanted to let you know that you've presented some powerful arguments. Will think about this some more...
And with that, I'm out.