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Fair Judicial Pay: Not A Dead Horse
The late Chief Justice Rehnquist opined that his long effort to improve pay for federal judges was "beating a dead horse." Chief Justice Roberts, in his role as watchdog over the federal judiciary, has taken up the cause of promoting the quality and independence of the judicial system.

In his first annual report on the state of the judiciary, Justice Roberts explained that improving judicial salaries and reducing the courthouse rents paid to GSA would have a "vanishingly small" budgetary impact but "would go a long way toward maintaining a strong and independent federal judiciary with the resources to administer justice efficiently and fairly. And that is priceless."

The Federal Bench is not and should never be seen as a path to wealth. The Chief Justice did not call for pay equality with the private sector. Rather, he acknowledges that there "will always be a substantial difference in pay between successful government and private sector lawyers."

Moreover, the new Chief Justice noted "if that difference remains too large -- as it is today -- the judiciary will over time cease to be made up of a diverse group of the nation's very best lawyers. Every time a judge leaves the bench for a higher paying job, the independence fostered by life tenure is weakened."

Without a significant pay increase, the Federal Bench will be limited primarily to individuals who are either financially independent or who see the position as temporary employment on the path to a more financially rewarding job. Neither of those possibilities is in the country's best interests.

As a long-standing afficionado of cost-benefit analysis, Winston is loath to use the term "priceless." Even in this case the term "priceless" seems inappropriate since the benefits to the country of a fair, independent judicial system reflective of the best and brightest of America's diverse legal talents are more than priceless they are essential.
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