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Congress is poised to give federal judges their first pay raise in two decades, but there’s a catch. The bills � the House Judiciary Committee approved its version last week; the Senate Judiciary Committee is closing in on a vote � would also increase the workload for senior judges, raise the retirement age for full pension, and discourage retired judges from taking work in the private sector. Under the Federal Judicial Salary Restoration Act of 2007, federal district judges would earn $218,000 annually, up from $165,200 � also the current salary for members of Congress. Federal appeals judges would earn $231,000; Supreme Court associate justices $267,900; and the chief justice $279,900. Detractors warned of putting federal judges on a pedestal, but the bill’s sponsors were keen to point out that federal district judges are often paid less than first-year associates at prestigious firms. “The federal judiciary is not a steppingstone to a high-paying career. It’s the capstone of a great career,” Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), a co-sponsor of the bill, declared at the House committee hearing last week. (The committee approved the bill by a vote of 28-5.) The measure would also tax retired judges who are collecting a federal pension while earning large salaries in private jobs. For every $2 they made over their salary as a federal judge, $1 would be cut from their pension. Senior judges’ workload would increase from three months a year to four months a year, and the pension scale would rise slightly. The earliest a judge could retire at salary would be at age 67 � rather than 65 � after 17 years of service. (A 68-year-old judge could retire after 16 years of service, and so on.)
Joe Palazzolo can be contacted at [email protected].

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