The Supreme Court Justice Salary: All about Judicial Salaries, Tasks and Types of Federal Courts

William Miller

Supreme Court justice salaries are determined by the U.S. Congress. They’re set by statute and can’t be changed by the president. Sitting justices’ salaries are protected by Article III of the Constitution. How much do they make, exactly?

The Supreme Court Justice Salary – Current Figures

Federal judges’ salaries are set by Congress, and they’re governed in part by the Constitution. The current wage for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is $286,700 per year, while Associate Justices earn $274,200. The pay increases every year to account for inflation. In addition to their wages, justices also receive benefits like a retirement plan and health insurance.

The Constitution says that Congress can’t pass any laws that would decrease the sitting justices’ pay. This means that once a justice is appointed, their pay is locked in for life. The only way it could change is if Congress passed a law specifically increasing it.

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Supreme Court Justice Salaries over the Years

The first chief justice John Jay was appointed in 1789. At that time, his earnings were $4,000 per year. We don’t know how much that would be in today’s dollars. The salaries of associate justices were set at $3,500 annually.

30 years later, in 1819, the two Supreme Court justice salaries increased to $5,000 and $4,500 respectively. In today’s dollars, that’s $84,533 and $76,079. From there, they’ve increased steadily over the decades. Here are some details:

  • In 1903, the Chief earned $13,000, which was worth the same as $374,448 in 2020. Associate Justices of the Sup. Ct. earned $12,500, translating to $360,046.
  • In 1969, Supreme Court justice salaries reached their peak if you account for inflation – $62,500 (today’s $441,073) for the Chief and $60,000 (today’s $423,430) for those on the judicial panel.
  • Between 1969 and 1987, their annual salaries increased slower than inflation, so their worth actually decreased until it was around $250,000 in 2020 dollars.
  • In the following decades, the compensation fluctuated around that number.

Other Federal Judges’ Wages

So, how does this compare to other fed judges? The Supreme Court Chief Justice makes more than any other legal official in the country. The 8 justices make less than the chief, but they still make more than any other type of federal judge. Both Supreme Court justice salaries are very lucrative.

For example, District Court judges make $223,400 per year, while Court of Appeals judges make $236,900. Court of International Trade judges and Court of Federal Claims judges make the same as district judges. Bankruptcy court judges and magistrate judges make the least out of all federal ones, as their pay can’t exceed 92% of the wages of district judges.

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What Does a Supreme Court Justice Do?

A justice’s main duties are to hear cases and write opinions. They also participate in what’s called the “cert pool.” When a case is appealed to the SCOTUS, each justice can decide whether they want to hear it. If they don’t, it goes into the cert pool.

The cert pool is a list of cases that the justices share with each other. If one justice decides they want to hear a case, they’ll take it out of the cert pool and put it on their docket. The other justices will then know not to consider that case.

The justices also have some administrative duties. They meet in what’s called a “conference” once a week to discuss cases and decide whether to hear them. They also oversee the Federal Judicial Center, which provides education and training for fed judges.

Types of Courts in the Federal Judiciary System

There are three main levels of courts in the federal judiciary system: district courts, circuit courts, and the Sup. Ct.

The first are the general trial courts of the federal judiciary system. They have original jurisdiction over all civil and criminal cases that involve federal law.

Circuit courts are the intermediate appellate courts of the federal judiciary system. The Sup. Ct. hears appeals from cases decided by the circuit courts, as well as cases involving state law that come from the federal district courts.

The Supreme Court is the highest ct. in the United States. It has original jurisdiction over some cases, but it mainly hears appeals from the lower courts. The Supreme Court is made up of nine justices: one chief justice and eight associate judges.

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How Does One Become a Federal Judge?

These legal officials are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Most appointments are made to district cts., but circuit court and U.S. Supreme Court appointments also happen. Appointments are usually for life, although a legal official can choose to retire.

Supreme Court Justice Salaries Are Higher Than Most Fed Judges

In conclusion, the set Supreme Court justice salary is $286,700 for the Chief Justice and $274,200 for Associate Justices. While the wages haven’t increased much in the last decade, they’ve also been higher than most of those judges working in a federal court. So, ready to go on the bench? Law school is waiting!

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