[JURIST] US Chief Justice John Roberts [official profile, PDF] called failure to raise the pay of federal judges a "constitutional crisis" in his 2006 year-end report on the federal judiciary [PDF; report archive, 2000- ], released Monday. Making that the sole focus of his second such report since taking office, Roberts decried the growing disparity between private sector salaries and federal judiciary compensation, warning that if judicial appointment "becomes a stepping stone to a lucrative position in private practice, the Framers' goal of a truly independent judiciary will be placed in serious jeopardy." Salaries for federal judges, though adjusted for cost of living, have not been increased for 16 years and are now about half that paid to top law school professors and deans; 38 judges have left the federal bench since 2000. Roberts voiced concern that in this context the federal bench no longer represents the best lawyers in the practicing bar:
Our judiciary will not properly serve its constitutional role if it is restricted to (1) persons so wealthy that they can afford to be indifferent to the level of judicial compensation, or (2) people for whom the judicial salary represents a pay increase.Roberts first presented the case for higher pay for federal judges in his 2005 year-end report [JURIST report].
Congress responded in early 2006 with S 2276 [bill text] and HR 5014 [bill text], aimed at a 16% increase in federal judiciary pay, but neither bill moved forward. S 2276-supporter and incoming Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy [official website] has pledged to revisit the issue. AP has more.