Judicial Compensation Redux: Pay or Power
Steve Bainbridge weighs into the long-running debate over whether we need to raise judicial pay in order to attract and keep the highest caliber legal minds.
Responding to Jonathan Singer‘s argument that “being a federal judge offers intangible benefits, such as the power to interpret law and the ability to play a role in leading the country, that are not offered outside of government,” Bainbridge retorts, “I’d rather pay judges in cash than in power.”
While I share that preference, it seems likely that upping judicial pay would simply create rich, powerful judges.
Jock Ewing counseled his son Bobby that, “Nobody gives you power. Real power is something you take.” Most of the power that advocates of a restrained judiciary dislike is, in that sense, real power. From Marbury on, judges have been so influential because they create thin constitutional pretexts for their policy preferences and dare the elected representatives of the people to do something about it. There’s no reason to think paying them more will change that.