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Public Defenders Do It Better

Should "Public Servants" Care About Their Pay?

Why oh why does anyone want to be a judge?  It's the serve the public, of course.  A person who has never done a pro bono case, volunteered at a soup kitchen, or even helped an old lady cross the street, when talking about becoming a judge, will mention his burning desire to serve the public.  Spare me. 

If judges are truly judges because they are but humble servants, why are they always complaining about their pay?  In New York state, judges are threatening everything from an illegal strike to a de facto work stoppage.  These judges, according to themselves, are making a pauper's living.  Is this claim true?

New York judges make $136,700 a year.  The median income for a family of four living in New York state is $67,857.  So the average judge makes about double the median household income.

But judges will tell you they are not the best paid people in New York.  Or that law firm partners make more money.  So what?  Really.  How is this relevant? 

A law firm partner or small-firm lawyer puts up with an incredible amount of stress, some really obnoxious clients, and a crushing workload to earn his large salary.  Unlike a judge, a lawyer doesn't set his own calendar or set his own working hours.  It's a life of stress, stress, stress, work, work, work.

Law professors make much less than law firm partners - less, even, than most first year associates at top law firms.  Does this mean law professors are underpaid?  I've never heard that argument seriously made.

That judges who make double the median income of the very people they "serve" are nonetheless complaining about their pay, tells me all I need to know about their motives for service.  Judges like the reduced workload and, more importantly, the power.  Which is fine.

There is nothing wrong with desiring a cushy working arrangement or a lot of power.  Who doesn't want one or - in the case of being a judge - both?  But there is something wrong with judges pretending that they are but humble public servants.

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