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There’s a growing pay gap in our country that is alarming both national and state officials, who say it raises a fundamental question of American justice.
No, Bucko, it’s not about the yawning, ever-growing chasm separating your sad paycheck from the heavy haul of the executive swells at corporate headquarters. Indeed, the “injustice worrying our leaders is literally about justices – as in state and federal judges. More and more of them are wailing that they’re grossly underpaid at about $150,000 a year. One judge in New York says she’s so strapped she had to sell a summer home in the Hamptons. “I’m working to achieve justice for other people,” she complains, yet “I don’t feel that I’m experiencing justice.”
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Let me pause a moment so you can reach for a hanky and sob with her about… well, the raw injustice of $150,000 judicial paychecks. It’s embarrassing, they sniff, to sit on the judge’s throne across from a big-firm lawyer who banks 10 times what you’re paid.
Good grief, get a grip! Maybe you haven’t noticed, your honor, but millions of people can’t get any kind of job, middle-class wages are evaporating, health coverage is a fantasy, and poverty is on the march.
Besides, as my friend Jim Harrington puts it, being a judge is a public service, and doing that job should not depend on how closely your pay “matches the extravagant earnings of attorneys at elite law firms.” Jim is a lifelong public interest lawyer in Texas who makes maybe a third of what judges do, but he notes that this is more than most folks get. Judges’ pay should be moderate, Harrington argues, because that puts them in the position to “understand the problems of the day-to-day life” of regular Americans who come into their courts seeking a small measure of justice.
Now that’s judiciously put.
“Underpaid Judges, The New York Times, July 11, 2011.
“Pay Frozen, More New York Judges Leave Bench,” www.nytimes,com, July 4, 2011.