Law Schools Spend $2 Million on Judges

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Should Law Schools Be Hiring Judges?

 

These days, you almost expect to see law deans camped out on a corner, holding up a tin cup and chanting, “alms for the poor.”

Who could blame them? Between shrinking enrollments, staff cutbacks, and tighter budgets, you wonder how they get through the year sometimes.

And then you see stats like this from the National Law Journal:

Senior Judge Douglas Ginsburg of the U.S. Court of Appeals (D.C. Circuit) earned $277,906 from New York University’s School of Law.

Senior Judge Harry Edwards of the D.C Circuit received $190,528 from NYU.

Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit nabbed $20,500 in lecture fees from law schools at Georgia State, Florida Coastal, the University of Miami, and Northwestern University.

Yeah, there’s a law school crisis alright. Just wonder: Is it rooted in limited resources or lousy judgment?

Here, we go into the most personal of dealings: outside income. When judges are brought into law schools to teach, one wonders if it is a unique educational opportunity… or just a financial indulgence.

Recently, the National Law Journal reviewed financial reports from 57 judges who included income from law schools. Their findings: “Together, the judges earned nearly $2 million for teaching and lecturing as they navigated a thicket of ethics rules that restrict activity off the bench.”

Wait, aren’t judges already paid enough? And isn’t this double-dipping?

Well, that depends. According to the National Law Journal, federal law prohibits active judges from earning more than $26,955 beyond their salaries. As you’d expect, there are exceptions, including retirement pay and publishing royalties. However, as noted by the National Law Journal, these requirements apply to judges with full dockets. Senior judges, who often carry lighter loads, are free to earn income through teaching. That’s why Judge Ginsburg and Judge Edwards are able to rake in six-figure incomes at NYU. However, senior judges, like other judges, are restricted from receiving honorarium for activities like appearances, speeches, or articles, unless approved by a chief appellate judge.

So why hire judges in the first place if they’re so expensive? For starters, they’re actually “cost-effective” hires, according to Vanderbilt Law professor Tracey George. In its research, the National Law Journal found that judges generally earned the same compensation as non-judges. Even more, they bring prestige, connections, and practical experience to schools.

More importantly, many judges are looking to give back (with many returning to their alma maters or schools where they previously taught). That was the motivation for Judge Adalberto Jordan, an eleventh circuit judge who earns the standard adjunct pay for teaching at Florida International University and the University of Miami. “It’s something I enjoy,” Jordan tells the National Law Journal. “It gives me the opportunity to meet students who are going through law school and get their perspective.” Adds Judge Richard Suhrheinrich, a sixth circuit judge who teaches at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School: “I can talk to these young people about the profession and … what the profession expects, and I think I do them a little service.”

In short, maybe judges are more of a value-add than a luxury. But six-figure salaries and five-figure speaking fees? Well, let’s see you justify that next time you cry poverty.

Source: National Law Journal