Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Federal Judiciary Salary Bill Progresses - With Caveats
The House Judiciary Committee approved a salary increase for the federal judiciary today, but in a last minute change, the amount of the pay raise was reduced.
A district court judge would now earn $218,000 if the bill passes Congress, an increase of 31 percent on the current salary.
Judges would also receive a cost-of-living adjustment each year, which they haven't had in the past.
The original bill called for a $233,000 salary; judges currently earn just over $160,000, about the same as a first year associate at a big law firm.
Republicans on the committee also pushed for language that would deter judges from leaving the bench for high-paying jobs in the private sector.
Under a provision suggested by Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, judges would lose a dollar of their pension for every two dollars they earn above their old salary, down to baseline of 33 percent of their judicial pay.
This proposal won the backing of Democrats, including Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif. (pictured), a leading sponsor of the bill.
"The federal judiciary is not a stepping stone to a high paying career," he said. "It's supposed to be a capstone. So we have created a disincentive."
Not everyone supported the change, including Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., who said the pension change could be unconstitutional.
"There will be a lawsuit," he predicted.
The Senate version of the legislation, which is on the judiciary committee's agenda for tomorrow's markup, would bump salaries up to almost $248,000.