- United States federal judge
In the United States, the title of federal judge usually refers to a
judgeappointed by the President of the United Statesand confirmed by the United States Senatein accordance with Article III of the United States Constitution.
In addition to the
United States Supreme Court, whose existence and some aspects of whose jurisdiction are beyond the Constitutional power of Congress to alter, acts of Congress have established 13 courts of appeals (also called "circuit courts") with appellate jurisdictionover different regions of the United States, and 94 United States district courts. Every judge appointed to such a court falls within the category of federal judges. These include the Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court, Circuit Judges of the courts of appeals, and district judges of the United States district courts. In addition, judges of the Court of International Tradeare appointed pursuant to Article III.
Other judges serving in the federal courts, including
bankruptcyjudges, are also sometimes referred to as "federal judges." However, they are not appointed pursuant to the procedures designated in Article III. The distinction is sometimes expressed by saying that they are not "Article III judges", because the power of these other kinds of federal judges does not derive from Article III of the U.S. Constitution.
Tenure and salary
"Article III federal judges" (as opposed to judges of some courts with special jurisdictions) serve "during good behavior" (often paraphrased as appointed "for life"). Although the legal orthodoxy is that judges cannot be removed from office except by impeachment by the House of Representatives followed by conviction by the Senate, several legal scholars, including
William Rehnquist, Saikrishna Prakash and Steven D. Smith, have argued that the Good Behaviour Clause may permit removal by way of a writ of " scire facias" filed before a federal court, without resort to impeachment. In any case, judges hold their seats until they resign, die, are impeached and convicted, or, more controversially, removed by "scire facias."
Since the impeachment process requires a trial by the
United States Senate, and since the constitutional provision concerning federal judges' tenure cannot be changed without the ratifications of three-fourths of the states, federal judges have perhaps the best job security available in the United States. Moreover, the Constitution forbids Congress to diminish a federal judge's salary. Twentieth century experience suggests that Congress is generally unwilling to take time out of its busy schedule to impeach and try a federal judge until, after criminal conviction, he or she is already in prison and still drawing a salary, which cannot otherwise be taken away (see " Nixon v. United States," a key Supreme Court case about Congress's discretion in impeaching and trying federal judges).
As of January 2008, federal trial judges were paid $169,300 a year, appellate judges $179,500, associate Supreme Court justices $208,100 and the chief justice $217,400. All were permitted to earn an additional $21,000 a year for teaching. [http://www.senate.gov/reference/resources/pdf/RL33245.pdf] .
Non-Article III judges
Unlike the judges of Article III courts, non-Article III judges are appointed for specified terms of office. For example, see
United States Magistrate Judges; United States Tax Court; United States Bankruptcy Court; United States Court of Federal Claims.
Federal judicial appointment history
* Saikrishna Prakash & Steven D. Smith, "How To Remove a Federal Judge," 116 Yale L.J. 72 (2006).
* [http://www.uscourts.gov/faq.html U.S. Courts FAQ]
* [http://www.judicialwatch.org/jfd.shtml Judicial Financial Disclosure Reports]
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