While lawmakers on Capitol Hill are set to get their first pay raise in five years, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist yesterday quietly reminded Congress that federal judges can't cash in just yet.
A quirk in the law means that a companion 2.3 percent pay increase for federal judges can't take effect unless a separate bill passes - a bill that right now faces a presidential veto threat.
"I urge you to favorably address the problem of judicial pay," the chief justice said as he sought to free judicial salaries from the politics of congressional pay raises, or at least secure a 2.3 percent cost of living allowance, or COLA, increase for judges for 1998.
"I cannot emphasize too strongly the profound effect on the federal judiciary that congressional treatment of these matters will have," he said in a letter obtained by The Washington Times.
The appropriations bills containing the pay increase did not include the special waiver required for judges to join the COLA raise given to legislative and executive branch officials. Justice Rehnquist alerted lawmakers that the language is in a second spending bill that is under a veto threat for unrelated reasons.
Bankruptcy judges and federal magistrates receive $122,912 a year, less than some congressional staffers. Judges in district courts, the Court of International Trade and the Court of Federal Claims earn $133,600; circuit judges earn $141,700; the Supreme Court's eight associate justices earn $164,100; and the chief justice, whose salary is linked to the pay of House and Senate leaders, earns $171,500. …