Friday, May 12, 2006
As the dust begins to settle from Mike Luttig's departure from the Fourth Circuit to Boeing's corporate suites in Seattle, it was inevitable that the debate about judicial salaries would bubble up again, as Southern Appeal notes here.
My two cents worth is that while it would be very nice to make more money, judicial salaries are not out of line in comparison to other upper level government jobs and are certainly much better than the average earnings of those taxpayers who pay those salaries.
As a state judge, I am not paid even what Judge Luttig walked away from but I doubt many of us do the job for the money. I took a pay cut to go on the bench and I have children at home who will soon be entering college, so money is not unimportant. I know I could easily find a job with a law firm that would quickly solve any potential financial problems. Unlike Mike Luttig, I can also safely say that I will never be on anybody's short list for a seat on the Supreme Court. So why do I stay?
I do what I do for several mundane reasons. First, I really enjoy the intellectual stimulation of wrestling with the finer points of the law. Second, I enjoy writing and I find a lot of satisfaction in crafting an opinion that resolves the legal issues between the parties and provides future guidance to the bench and bar. Finally, there are some great quality of life benefits in that you don't have to worry about clients or billable hours and because the job is 90% reading and 10% writing, you can do it anywhere and anytime. This means that the hours are pretty flexible and as long as you have the discipline to keep up with the work flow, I can go to my kids' sporting events, parent-teacher conferences and all those other things I missed before I went on the bench.
Obviously, if the compensation wasn't enough to support my family's basic needs, I would be doing something else but the nature of upper level government service is some measure of financial sacrifice for the greater good. Besides, and I recognize that I may be in the minority on this point, I don't have a big problem with people leaving government service after a while as long as there are good people available to fill the void and while getting them confirmed, appointed or elected may be another story, it doesn't appear to me that there is a critical shortage of highly competent men and women ready and willing to fill vacancies on state and federal appellate courts.
Posted by Have Opinion Will Travel at 8:27 PM