Chief Justice William Rehnquist has called for higher pay for federal judges (Jan. 1). Acceding to his request would be a huge mistake. Judges are rewarded with far more than money, and, considering the large number of lawyers anxious to be judges at current salaries, free-market conditions indicate that judges are overpaid rather than underpaid.
One big problem with our judicial system is that justices are appointed for life. Each president promotes his own philosophy in his judicial appointments, and many justices stay on the court in their dotage. What we need is a system that would encourage judges to leave the bench and return to private practice after a tour of duty, which could be six years, the same term as a senator.
To accomplish this, after getting an adequate wage when hired, judges should get only cost-of-living increases, as do all other government employees. A judge should be eligible to retire with very generous benefits after serving six years. The retirement package set at that date should be permanent and not be increased by longer service on the bench. The justice system would benefit from having a more diverse judiciary, as the screening process would vary with the changing president and Senate.
Rehnquist wants to raise the pay of judges because they are leaving to go into better-paying private practice. Did they know what the pay was when they accepted the judgeship? Did they know what the job entailed? If the answer was no, then I can see why our justice system is falling apart. Does Rehnquist realize the only reason they are offered jobs in the private sector is because they are judges? They also can take their lucrative pensions and still have a high-paying job.