Statement of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist
On Receipt of ABA-FBA White Paper on Judicial Pay
May 28, 2003
Thank you, Mr. Carlton and Mr. Hofmeister. On behalf of the federal judiciary, I would like to
express our appreciation to the American Bar Association and the Federal Bar Association for preparing
this important report on the continued erosion of federal judicial pay, and the critical need for a
substantial increase in pay for judges.
A little over two years ago, in February 2001, I accepted another white paper on judicial pay
prepared by the ABA and the FBA. This new report, like that one, documents the continuing, serious
decline in judicial salaries compared to inflation and the pay for attorneys in the private sector
and academia. Last summer, Justice Breyer and I testified before the Volcker Commission about the
immediate need for a substantial increase in the salaries of federal judges. The Volcker Commission
issued its report about revitalizing the federal government in January of this year. Among other
things, it recommended that Congress "grant an immediate and significant increase in judicial,
executive and legislative salaries" and that "[i]ts first priority in doing so should be an immediate
and substantial increase in judicial salaries."
Earlier this month, Senators Hatch and Leahy, along with a bipartisan group of co-sponsors,
introduced S. 1023, which would increase salaries for federal judges 16.5 per cent. President
Bush endorsed the bill and an identical version has been introduced in the House. Senators Reid
and Lindsey Graham have introduced a similar bill that would raise judicial salaries by 25 per cent.
I want to thank The President, Senators Hatch, Leahy, Reid and Graham, and Representatives Hyde and
Conyers, and the other cosponsors of the bills. In one sense, this represents a great deal of
progress: bipartisan support in Congress, and the support of the President, for a significant
salary increase for federal judges. But unless legislation is passed by the Senate and the House,
and signed by the President, it is progress to no purpose.
As I have said many times recently, I consider the need to increase judicial salaries to be the
most pressing issue facing the federal judiciary today. The longer it takes to raise salaries, the
more serious the problem becomes. In order to continue to provide the nation a capable and effective
judicial system we must be able to attract and retain highly qualified and diverse men and women to
serve as federal judges. We must provide these judges -- whom we ask and expect to remain for life
-- adequate compensation, and the bills pending in the Senate and House would go a long way toward
doing just that.