Everyone agrees that judicial salaries have fallen in comparison to those of law school deans and professors, and attorneys with large firms. Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. says the current pay gap is a “constitutional crisis”. Economists counter that judges perform a job in high demand, and raising their pay would make no difference in the quality of their performance:

            “[B]eing a judge is pretty sweet work and the job is in high demand. It comes with status, power, good working conditions, no clients, the ability to affect policy and the satisfaction of doing justice. Federal judges get very good health care, exceptionally generous pensions and the ultimate in job security — life tenure.” New York Times, January 20, 2009, p. A14. http://tinyurl.com/8u3mh8

            However, one study does suggest  that “low salaries lead to slightly fewer dissents.”[1]

            I have an idea why people paid less may have less tendency to dissent. It goes like this: Much of the time, appellate judges simply add their names to opinions written by fellow jurists. But the task of producing a dissenting opinion requires more intellectual rigor, research and writing than joining a majority or remaining silent. Furthermore, it can be stressful to disagree with colleagues.

             It is possible that lower paid judges feel less inclined to work hard or engage in potentially alienating conduct.  Maybe that is a reason for higher judicial salaries or — as economists might argue — for further studies.


[1] University of North Carolina Professor Scott Baker, writing in Boston University Law Review in 2008.