Richard Posner On the Flawed Case for a Judicial Pay Increase:

In this recent post on the Becker-Posner blog, Judge Richard Posner points out numerous flaws in the case for increasing judicial salaries put forward by Chief Justice John Roberts and others. Many of his arguments are similar to those I advanced in a series of posts on the same issue earlier this year, and last year (see here, here, and here). Among the most important of Posner's points is his emphasis on the many nonsalary benefits of being a judge that pay increase advocates ignore:

The most serious omission in Chief Justice Roberts's report is the other compensation that judges receive besides their salaries. Most judges who want to can teach a course or a seminar at a law school and receive another $25,000 in pay ....The federal judicial pension is extremely generous--a judge can retire at age 65 with only 15 years of judicial service (or at 70 with 10 years), and receive his full salary for life.... The health benefits are also good. Above all, a judgeship confers very substantial nonpecuniary benefits. The job is less taxing than practicing law, more interesting (though this is partly a matter of taste), and highly prestigious. Judges exercise considerable power, not only over the litigants in the cases before them but also in shaping the law for the future, and power is a highly valued form of compensation for many people.Judges are public figures, even if only locally, to a degree that few even very successful lawyers are. And judges are not at the beck and call of impatient and demanding clients, as even the most successful lawyers are.

I too have emphasized the importance of judges' nonsalary compensation as a way of attracting good people to the job (see here). But it means more coming from a prominent judge such as Posner than from me.

Posner does advocate a cost of living adjustment for judges located in especially expensive areas. Here too, we are in agreement, as I suggested the same thing in a post last year.

I wish I could say this is a case of great minds thinking alike. But, in reality, it's just a case where I happen to have the same views as a great mind (we disagree on many other issues).

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Posner on Judicial Salaries:
  2. Richard Posner On the Flawed Case for a Judicial Pay Increase:
Public_Defender (mail):
Why should judges who live in more attractive (and therefore more expensive) locations be paid more to live in more attractive locations? The compensation for living in a more attractive location is that you get to live in a more attractice location.
3.20.2007 9:44pm
Colin (mail):
Yeah! Those hoity-toity SDNY judges should live in South Dakota, where it's cheap, and commute.
3.20.2007 9:53pm
David Maquera (mail) (www):
No thanks! I would rather bill 2500 hours a year, take no vacations, see my wife once in a while, and gain 10 pounds a year because I don't have enough time to hit the gym and also because my law firm allows me to order food via the intranet so I can eat at my desk to continue billing through meals.
3.20.2007 10:35pm
Jake (Guest):
If you prefer living in NY to living in South Dakota, you should be willing to accept less (or at least equal) pay to get the job in NY. How many SDNY judges do you think would volunteer for postings out in South Dakota, to take advantage of the low cost of living?
3.20.2007 11:03pm
Ilya Somin:
Usually, when I criticize arguments for judicial pay increases, commenters attack me for being too hard on the judges. I'm glad that the pendulum has shifted enough that people are now attacking me from the other side.
3.20.2007 11:47pm
Jake (Guest):
I think people's point of view is influenced by whether they're closer to a first-year associate position or a federal judgeship...

I agree with the argument that we want quality people to become federal judges, and that at some level of pay we will not be paying enough to attract such people. I don't believe that this level can be determined by reference to first year associate salaries.
3.21.2007 1:06am
Viscus (mail) (www):
What makes someone a "great" mind?

I have read several Posner books and several Posner articles. But I have stopped. I find Posner too predictable. But then again, I am really into economics, so I don't find many of his conclusions are arguments suprising.

Maybe this is a testimony to the influence of Posner as an innovator in the field of law and economics. Then again, maybe (probably) law and economics would have reached its current position of prominence without Posner's help.

I think Posner is plenty smart. I wouldn't call him a "great mind" though. I tend to save that sort of praise for truly great minds. Like Einstein. Or Richard Feynmann. You know, real nobel prize winners in real science. (Not economics. Economics is about as far away from real science as sociology or anthropology.) I don't consider people who analyze a million subjects, but basically using the same tired analytical framework to be brilliant. I find them predictable.
3.21.2007 8:09pm