In March I wrote a post titled “the public service mantra.” The upshot was that when our next judicial election rolls around, we voters shouldn’t buy into the candidates’ inevitable cries that they are seeking the job to “serve the community.” Instead, I argued, the more likely explanation is that candidates seek judgeships for the huge pay raise and incredible benefits. More specifically, the median salary for Kenosha households is $53k, for Kenosha attorneys is $77k, and for Wisconsin judges (in all counties including Kenosha) is $129k plus a host of benefits that few others enjoy. But does this hold true in other parts of the country? The short answer: yes.
Take for example,
Massachusetts. A newly published study by their state bar
compares the judges with the public-servant litigators (public defenders and
prosecutors). The litigators make about
$40k per year. The judges make a
whopping $145k. (See p. 22 of the study
for more details.)
I’ve been in the courtroom a lot during the last twelve-plus years. And as someone who is not (and has never been) a public defender, prosecutor, or judge, I can objectively state that the litigators work several times longer and harder, and have infinitely more stress, than the judges. And to think judges in
Massachusetts are making $105,000
more per year is astounding. (In Wisconsin,
the gap is smaller: the litigators make about $50k, and the judges make about $129k—only
a $79k difference. See page 24 of the study for Wisconsin public defender salary data;
prosecutor salaries are about the same.)
So, to the citizens of Massachusetts, next time you have judicial elections (or appointments), and a candidate inevitably claims to want the judgeship so he can “serve the community” (or “the public” or “the people” or “the commonwealth”), ask him this: if you are interested in serving the community, what is your reason for seeking this judgeship, as opposed to a position as a public defender or prosecutor?
I can think of about 105,000 reasons.