Federal Judges Deserve a Raise

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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Jason C. Rylander's solution to the problem of inadequate federal judicial salaries ["Expanding the Pool of Potential Judges," letters, Jan. 10] is "to look beyond the nation's largest law firms to stock the federal bench." In fact, at least since the Carter administration, judges from those firms have rarely exceeded 20 percent of all U.S. District Court appointees.

Law firms have been the source of roughly 37 to 45 percent of appointees; other state and federal courts supplied 40 percent or more; and a smaller percentage have come from other government units, according to data published regularly by Sheldon Goldman of the University of Massachusetts.

Federal judicial salaries should be determined not by looking at what judges made in previous occupations, what they might make if they resign, or what legislators make, but rather at the importance and difficulty of the work that federal judges do. On that measure, the case for a significant salary increase is powerful indeed.

RUSSELL WHEELER

Visiting Fellow, Governance Studies

Brookings Institution

Washington


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