Are Judges Overpaid?: A Skeptical Response to the Judicial Salary Debate
UVA Law Faculty Affiliations
The public debate over the need to raise judicial salaries has been one-sided. Sentiment appears to be that judges are underpaid. But neither theory nor evidence provides much support for this view. The primary argument being made in favor of a pay increase is that it will raise the quality of judging. Theory suggests that increasing judicial salaries will improve judicial performance only if judges can be sanctioned for performing inadequately or if the appointments process reliably screens out low-ability candidates. However, federal judges and many state judges cannot be sanctioned, and the reliability of screening processes is open to question. An empirical study of the high court judges of the fifty states provides little evidence that raising salaries would improve judicial performance.