Pay for federal judges is so inadequate that it threatens to undermine the judiciary's independence, Chief Justice John Roberts says in a year-end report critical of Congress.
Issuing an eight-page message devoted exclusively to salaries, Roberts says the 678 full-time U.S. District Court judges, the backbone of the federal judiciary, are paid about half that of deans and senior law professors at top schools.
In the 1950s, 65 percent of U.S. District Court judges came from the practicing bar and 35 percent came from the public sector. Today the situation is reversed, Roberts said, with 60 percent from the public sector and less than 40 percent from private practice.
Federal district court judges are paid $165,200 annually; appeals court judges make $175,100; associate justices of the Supreme Court earn $203,000; the chief justice gets $212,100.
Thirty-eight judges have left the federal bench in the past six years and 17 in the past two years.
The issue of pay, says Roberts, "has now reached the level of a constitutional crisis."
"Inadequate compensation directly threatens the viability of life tenure, and if tenure in office is made uncertain, the strength and independence judges need to uphold the rule of law - even when it is unpopular to do so - will be seriously eroded," Roberts wrote.
Habeas Corpus, domestic wiretapping, violations of the Geneva Conventions, illegal wars and THIS is a constitutional crisis for Roberts? Hyperbole much?