News Release ~ 01/14/2008

Criminal Defense Lawyers Urge Congress To Pass Judicial Pay Raise

 Letter of Support Sent to Congressional Leaders

Washington, DC­ (January 14, 2008) -- Two years ago, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. took up his predecessor’s 20-year campaign for better pay for federal judges, calling the lack of adequate judicial compensation “a direct threat to judicial independence.”

In his 2007 year-end report, Roberts again made his case for restoring judicial pay “to the same level … that other federal employees have received since 1989.” The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) concurred and passed a resolution of support. Federal judges’ paychecks have not kept up with the cost of living increases other federal employees receive. As a result, an experienced federal judge may earn less than first-year associates at major law firms. Presently, a U.S. district court trial judge earns $165,000 per year. Last summer, the large firms were starting lawyers just out of law school at $160,000 and starting salaries are expected to climb as high as $180,000 by summer.

Bills are now pending before the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives which would ameliorate the pay situation. Last month, H.R. 3753 was approved 28-5 by the House Judiciary Committee; the bill would raise the pay of district court judges to $218,000 and provide corresponding increases for federal appellate judges. A similar bill, S. 1638, is before the Senate Judiciary Committee. This week, NACDL’s Executive Committee approved a resolution affirming the Board’s position and supporting quick legislative action.

In a letter signed by President Carmen D. Hernandez, sent today to the leadership of the House and Senate, and chairs and ranking members of the judiciary committees, NACDL voiced strong support for both bills and took up Chief Justice Roberts’ call to pass the pay legislation “as a first order of business this session of Congress.”

“For evidence that the inadequacy of judicial pay undermines life tenure, one need only point to the unprecedented number of departures from the federal bench in recent years,” Hernandez wrote.

“As an association of lawyers who appear daily in our nation’s federal courts, we know first-hand the importance of a highly qualified and independent judiciary.”

Take Action - Tell your Senators and Representatives that you support fairness in judicial compensation.

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's approximately 10,000 direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.

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