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Are All Public Servants Created Equally When It Comes to Private Sector Salary Potential?

The disparity between judges' salaries and those of their private sector colleagues is frequently invoked as justification for judicial pay raises.   In the absence of parity, many believe that judges will bolt for the private sector when financially expedient to so.  Indeed, the House Judiciary Committee cited the pay gap in support of a draft bill, released this past Wednesday, that would increase salaries in an effort to curb the growing number of federal judges who resign due to inadequate pay.

But can all federal judges command a stratospheric private sector salary?  Perhaps not, at least if the salaries of departing U.S. Attorneys are any indication.  Over at Above the Law, sharp-eyed David Lat noticed that Joseph Russoniello, who was recently named as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California for the second time (he previously held the slot from 1982-1990, according to Wikipedia) only earned $244,802 in his former position as counsel to Cooley Godward. As such, Russoniello won't experience much of a change financially with his new salary.  By contrast, Michael Mukasey, who earned $1,993,367 over 21 months while in private practice, will make just $186,600 as Attorney General.

Just as all new lawyers don't necessarily earn $160,000 a year, we shouldn't assume that all sitting judges will necessarily double or triple their salaries in private practice. There may be good reasons to increase federal judicial salaries (for example, to show added respect for the position or to keep pace with the cost of living); I'm just not so sure that the pay gap is one of them.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on December 18, 2007 at 04:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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