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Home arrow Economics arrow Commitment and cooperation on high courts : a cross-country examination of institutional constraints on judges

Financial/Material Compensation

A judge on a high court should not, in theory, have to worry about the immediate financial implications of her decisions. To the extent that high courts are meant to be independent of the government of the day, a judge’s salary as judge should not depend on how she decides any particular case (unlike potentially a lower court judge whose decisions could conceivably be influenced by the hope of elevation to a higher court with potentially higher pay). Of course, we can imagine institutional arrangements where a non-independent or only partially independent body determines pay increases or other aspects of judicial compensation (such as court infrastructure) or perks (such as travel, food, or housing). In such cases, judges may view the court’s budget as hinging on the court’s relationship with the body, which may in turn influence their decisions. Such a connection between judicial decisions and material compensation would strike at the heart of judicial independence but would not be unheard of.

As Epstein, Landes, and Posner point out, judges may also be concerned about their extrajudicial income or compensation.[1] As judges, they may be paid for speaking or other engagements or they may write books and obtain royalties. This compensation is obviously closely connected to the judge’s reputation—that is, his reputation may lead to more or fewer opportunities to earn extrajudicial income.

  • [1] Epstein, Landes & Posner, Behavior, supra note 1 at 30-31.
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