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Federal judges are underpaid, the chief justice is reporting.
WASHINGTON - Chief Justice John Roberts urged Congress to raise the pay of federal judges in a year-end report that emphasized improving communications with Capitol Hill and the White House.
"The separate branches may not always agree," the chief justice wrote in the report being released today, adding that each should strive "to know and appreciate where the others stand."
Roberts struck a conciliatory tone with Congress, where legislation to raise judges' pay is under consideration. A year ago, the chief justice was critical of Congress for a decades-long history of not acting to raise judges' salaries.
"We are grateful for the continuing support of the bipartisan leadership in both the House and the Senate, as well as the support of the president, on this vital legislation," Roberts wrote.
He called the legislation a reasonable compromise for judges who "year after year have discharged their important duties for steadily eroding real pay."
U.S. District Court judges earn $165,200 a year, the same as members of Congress.
The dollar amount, Roberts wrote, is about the same as, and in some cases less than, first-year lawyers at firms in major cities. Judges' pay would go up to $233,500 annually under a bill the House Judiciary Committee passed 28-5 on Dec. 12.
"The cost of this long overdue legislation - less than .004 percent of the annual federal budget - is minuscule in comparison to what is at stake," Roberts said.
The president makes $400,000, while the vice president and the speaker of the House make $212,100, the same as the chief justice's current salary. Deans and senior professors at top law schools make more than federal judges, according to the Web site for the federal judiciary.
Federal appeals court judges are paid $175,100 annually, and their salaries would go up to $247,500. The eight associate justices of the Supreme Court are paid $203,000 annually, and their salaries would rise to $286,900. Roberts' salary would go from $212,100 to $299,800.
A bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee would raise judges' salaries more than in the House version, moving the pay of U.S. District Court judges to $247,800, the pay of appeals court judges to $262,700, associate justices to $304,500 and Roberts' salary to $318,200.
Pay of U.S. judges
Chief justice: $212,100 a year
Associate justices: $203,000
Appeals court judges: $175,100
District court judges: $165,200
[Last modified December 31, 2007, 22:06:41]