Top judge: don’t link pay raises to travel expense ban

A top federal judge said yesterday that he opposes a bill that would tie judicial pay raises to a ban on paid junkets for judges.

Judge Thomas F. Hogan, Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for D.C. and Chair of the Executive Committee of the U.S. Judicial Conference, told reporters after the conference met at the Supreme Court yesterday that the legislation is too sweeping.

“The way it’s written is far too broad,” Hogan said, noting that, according to one commentator, the rules would allow “the Supreme Court could travel to Europe but not come back.”

The Senate bill (S. 1638) would boost federal trial judges’ salaries from $169,000 to $218,000 and Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.’s salary from $217,000 to $279,000.

It also contains a provision pushed by Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., barring judges from accepting travel or lodging expenses for judicial education programs sponsored by any institution except the government or bar associations.

It would also prohibit judges from accepting “in connection with a single trip or event” travel expenses, lodging, or food valued in excess of $2,000 per trip and sets a calendar-year limit of such gifts to $20,000.

Critics argue that the rule would prevent, for example, judges from being law school adjunct professors or participating in foreign panels.

Hogan’s comments came after the Judicial Conference approved new rules that would allow information about judges sanctioned under judicial conduct orders to be posted on court websites.

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