Enhancing federal judicial compensation
I appreciate Roland Paul's concern and interest in the problem of federal judicial compensation ("How to enhance federal judicial compensation," Judicature, September-October 2008) . However, I do not believe that imposing an occupational tax upon lawyers is the way to help the judges, for the following reasons:
First, I believe that what he suggests would generate great ill will among the lawyers. Of course, in one sense that does not matter as federal judges are insulated from public opinion and the attitudes of the bar. However, a large percentage of lawyers do not make their money in the courtroom and would be offended if they were to be taxed to pay judges. Moreover, why should one profession be called upon to pay the salaries of judges? Judicial salaries are a routine governmental expense like any other. Receiving a pay raise at the cost of resentment of the bar would not suit me. The few federal judges to whom I have mentioned this all agree with me.
Secondly, if we are to get a raise it should come from the same funds from which we are now paid and Congress should make the necessary appropriation. There is no compelling reason why Congress should be excused from doing what is right in this matter. The problem is not a lack of funds, it is a lack of congressional will or desire. Judicial salaries are linked to congressional salaries. District judges make the same salary as senators and representatives. But, as Congress has demonstrated time after time, it is unwilling to delink us from its own salary structure, or to see us paid more than its members, and sometimes not as much. For example, two or three weeks ago Congress gave everybody and his brother, including representatives and senators, a COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) . The only group of federal employees which did not receive the COLA was the judiciary.
United States District Court
Middle District of Georgia
The author responds
I appreciate Judge Lawson 's comments on my proposal for increasing federal judges' salaries.
He may want to consider the following factors:
1) In Connecticut, where I practice law as a transactional attorney, we have had an occupational tax on lawyers for many years, and everyone seems to take it for granted. I doubt that the bar here would mind if the revenue derived from the tax were used to increase judges' salaries.
2) Having served on the Hill myself, as counsel to a Senate subcommittee, I tend to doubt that the judiciary would ever get the raise it deserves from general revenues. He seems to agree. Even if the bench got a COLA or the like out of general revenues, that would not bring the judiciary up to the level of compensation it really deserves.
Yet another survey
It is amusing to read about yet another task force survey ("Survey of experienced litigators finds serious cracks in U.S. civil justice system," September-October 2008 Judicature) revealing that: (a) litigation costs drive cases to settle that deserve to be tried on the merits; (b) the longer a case goes on, the more it costs; (c) discovery abuse in civil cases remains a significant problem; (d) discovery sanctions are seldom imposed by the court; and (e) meaningful civil justice reform will not be quick or easy.
Is any civil litigator or judge likely to be surprised by these findings? Is it necessary to conduct a survey to confirm the obvious? …