On Jan. 1 of last year, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. said in his annual report that the failure to raise judicial salaries had reached the level of a “constitutional crisis.” This January, Roberts toned down the rhetoric, but on Thursday Justice Anthony Kennedy kicked it back up again, telling a congressional committee, “We are at a crisis” over judicial pay. “We are losing our best judges; we can’t attract them, we can’t retain them.”

Kennedy spoke at the Court’s annual budget hearing before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government. It was a genial affair, with Kennedy and colleague Clarence Thomas exchanging pleasantries and compliments about harmony between the branches of government. And, oh yes, the Court’s budget was well-received: $88 million, up $10 million from last year mainly because of the ongoing, much-delayed renovation of the Court’s 73-year-old building. “I can’t tell you that I’m pleased with the progress,” Kennedy growled as he told the committee that the project is running about 16 months behind, with completion now projected for September 2009 or later.

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