Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Protect the Rule of Law: Give me a Raise!

You see, without a 30% raise, I can't possibly sit on the bench and rule fairly. It will eat at my concentration, knowing that there are plenty of academic and private practice lawyers making twice what I do. My assets, worth upwards of ten million not withstanding, it will be nigh impossible to do my job.

Yes I realize that minimum wage earners haven't seen any raise in over a decade. And yes, I realize that my earnings are almost 5 times the median wage of an American, and twice that of a median lawyer. And yes, I realize that I can make money from book deals and other endeavors, that I will retire with my full pay, and there is no limit on how long I can serve on the most prestigious job in justice in America.
What has that got to do with anything?

If anyone said this to you, you'd think that person a fool wouldn't you? I would. Yet this is exactly what Chief Justice Roberts has decided is the most important issue after a year on the bench. Not warrant-less eavesdropping. Not the rights of American citizens accused of being terrorists. No, his eight page year-end report was devoted to the necessity of getting a pay raise on his meager $212,000 annual salary.

So dire is this problem, that he called it a "constitutional crisis." Obviously what he meant was that the make-up of the court could be altered by this problem. His spin was that only those to whom $212K is chump change would agree to serve on the bench. You see, judges are leaving by the droves. In fact, a whopping 1% turnover rate! Call in the National Guard....

This is another fine example of an out of touch government employee. So out of touch that he thinks it's his privilege to get rich off the tax payer while simply forgetting that he's a public servant. It's not like he's never been in government before. He's been in and out over the last 30 years. So he knows the ropes, and you'd think that he'd know the idea of public service. But then this current administration has had some difficulties understanding ethics and governing, and seem drawn inexorably to making a dollar at the tax payers expense. One could hope that a Chief Justice would be beyond such meager attitudes.

But not so with John Roberts. In fact, he sits on the Court of an administration that in the case of Jose Padilla, an American citizen, that has abandoned the rule of law altogether. Mr. Padilla's Constitutional rights as a citizen have been criminally violated for over three years, and yet for Chief Justice Robert's, whose duty it is to oversee justice in this land, it's all about the money.

Well Mr. Robert's, if you can't rule without a raise from your privileged position: the door is right over there. If your attitude is at all prevalent on the courts of America, I say then we need a "constitutional crisis." It would do America well to have a Chief Justice that is concerned about the rule of law rather than the size of his check.

So just how tough is life for a Supreme Court justice? To begin with, being government employees, they get access to the best health care for free. We're talking John Hopkins and Bethesda Naval health care, not your local clinic in downtown DC. Oh, and if you need a check up, the same limo that drives you to work every morning will drive you there too. That limo that drives you there will drop you at the building where you have a three room office suite on some of the most valuable land in the country. Sometime during the day you can have your personal trainer drop by, or just head down to the free gym. While there you can work on the book you're planning to sell for millions, or a lecture offer that sits on your desk for which you are allowed to charge upwards of twenty thousand dollars. To get to those lectures you'll have to suffer the limo again and a first class ticket to wherever it is you are lecturing. Of course you'll do some work. For nine months of the year. The other three are a vacation. But during those nine months, as in 1996, you'll hear about 90 cases and offer opinions on about 80, like they did in 1996. That year the heavily conservative court actually had to muddle through 1% of the cases in the docket. They sound like the Congress that was just retired this last November....

And let's not forget the A-list for places like theaters, sporting events, and restaurants. There you can discuss those lectures and book deals while you're limo waits. No need to worry about the boss, because you're job is a lifetime appointment. And when all this work gets tiring, and you simply can't raise the gavel anymore, you can retire with your full pay. A guaranteed full pay pension. Man, that's tough.

So let's exclude those A-list things. Just maybe those aren't comped. What do these perqs amount to? Well, a single lecture amounts to twice what a minimum wage earner makes in a whole year. One lecture, for let's say an astounding two hours. Let's say it's only a ten thousand dollar lecture, and it's in California. For a whopping three days of your life, you'll make what a minimum wage earner makes in one year. So lectures can easily boost the salary of a justice by 10%. Health care benefits can easily add another 5%, just on cost alone let alone the quality of the care received. Since 2000, roughly a million people have lost their health care coverage. That means they have no health care. So 5% is a low figure. What do you suppose rent is on a three room office suite? A couple thousand a month? Let's add the gym and this together, and say three thousand a month. That's roughly thirty six thousand a year. A little over 10% of the salary figure. Already, outside the vacation of three months and book deals that are available, we have added 25% to the salary of a Supreme Court justice, which makes even the Associate justices roll in at over two hundred thousand dollars a year.

How many of us have a free limo to get to work? A three room office suite? Free access to a gym? The A-list of the best places in the country? How about three months off? The best and free health care available? Considering that the median wage in this country is about one fifth of what a justice makes, the odds aren't all that good in favor of the bulk of Americans whose wages compose that median wage. And I relatively doubt that the productivity numbers of the Supreme Court are even close to what the average workers is.

So when you hear a Chief Justice like Justice Roberts complain, write to your Senator and tell them that you oppose any wage increases until their productivity numbers go up, and that they realize that the bigger issues in America have nothing at all to do with how much a justice is paid. When an American citizen is denied his Constitutional rights, than it's not only proper but necessary that these Justices understand what a true "constitutional crisis" really is.


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