Are Judges Overpaid? A Skeptical Response to the Judicial Salary Debate

72 Pages Posted: 2 Apr 2009 Last revised: 25 Dec 2014

See all articles by Stephen J. Choi

Stephen J. Choi

New York University School of Law

G. Mitu Gulati

Duke University School of Law

Eric A. Posner

University of Chicago - Law School

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: January 21, 2009

Abstract

The public debate over the need to raise judicial salaries has been one-sided. Sentiment appears to be that judges are underpaid. But neither theory nor evidence provides much support for this view. The primary argument being made in favor of a pay increase is that it will raise the quality of judging. Theory suggests that increasing judicial salaries will improve judicial performance only if judges can be sanctioned for performing inadequately or if the appointments process reliably screens out low-ability candidates. However, federal judges and many state judges cannot be sanctioned, and the reliability of screening processes is open to question. An empirical study of the high court judges of the fifty states provides little evidence that raising salaries would improve judicial performance.

Keywords: judges, judicial salaries

JEL Classification: K10, K40

Suggested Citation

Choi, Stephen J. and Gulati, Gaurang Mitu and Posner, Eric A., Are Judges Overpaid? A Skeptical Response to the Judicial Salary Debate (January 21, 2009). The Journal of Legal Analysis, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 47-117, 2009; U of Chicago Law & Economics, Olin Working Paper No. 460. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1349458

Stephen J. Choi (Contact Author)

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States

Gaurang Mitu Gulati

Duke University School of Law ( email )

210 Science Drive
Box 90362
Durham, NC 27708
United States

Eric A. Posner

University of Chicago - Law School ( email )

1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
773-702-0425 (Phone)
773-702-0730 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.uchicago.edu/faculty/posner-e/

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