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Supreme Court Justices Stephen Breyer and Samuel Alito Jr. made a strong personal plea Thursday in favor of higher judicial salaries before a House Judiciary subcommittee. Both acknowledged the issue is a hard sell, given that as low as their pay might be relative to other lawyers and even to a growing number of executive branch employees, federal judges still make more than all but 2 percent of the general public.

But with 40 judges leaving the federal bench in the last five years — many for jobs that instantly pay four or more times their judicial salaries — the two justices see a severe threat to judicial independence. “There is a serious risk that this job that I love becomes a stepping stone,” said Breyer.

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