Judges, magistrates and other judicial workers apply the law and oversee the legal process in courts. They preside over cases, listen to arguments from attorneys on both sides, rule on the admissibility of evidence, issue instructions to the jury and preside over sentencing hearings. Cases include traffic offenses, divorce proceedings, civil litigation and criminal proceedings. Judges, magistrates and other judicial workers held 51,200 jobs in 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Judges, magistrate judges and magistrates had median annual wages of about $110,000 in May 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The top 10 percent earned more than $162,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent earned less than $33,000 per year. The mean annual salary for judges, magistrate judges and magistrates, working primarily at the state and local levels, was about $104,000 in May 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The mean annual salary of administrative law judges, adjudicators and hearing officers was about $88,000.
Federal Court Salaries
In the federal court system, the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court earned about $217,000 per year in January 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Associate Justices averaged about $208,000 annually. Appeals court judges earned an average of $179,500 a year. District court judges had annual average salaries of about $169,000. Federal judges with limited jurisdiction, such as magistrates and bankruptcy judges, had average salaries of about $156,000 per year.
State Court Salaries
According to a January 2010 survey by the National Center for State Courts, annual salaries for chief justices of the state courts of last resort ranged from about $115,000 to $229,000; for associate justices, from $113,000 to $218,000; for intermediate appellate court judges, from $105,000 to $205,000; and for trial court judges, from $104,000 to $179,000. Annual salaries for state court judges have been flat over the 10-year period from 1999 to 2009.
The state courts of last resort with the highest annual salaries were in California, at about $218,000; in Illinois, at $202,000; in Pennsylvania, at $186,000; and in New Jersey, at $185,000. The state intermediate appellate courts with the highest annual salaries were in California, at about $205,000; in Illinois, at $190,000; in Alabama, at $179,000; and in Pennsylvania, at $176,000. The state general trial courts with the highest annual salaries were in California, at about $179,000; in Illinois and the District of Columbia, at $174,000; and in Alaska, at $171,000.
The job outlook is stable. Employment was expected to grow about 4 percent from 2008 to 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Budgetary pressures were expected to hold recruitment down despite rising caseloads. There was concern, however, that the low pay of federal judges compared to those in the private sector, or even to those of other federal employees, could jeopardize the availability of qualified judges.
- United States Courts: Federa1 Judicial Pay Increase Fact Sheet
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition: Judges, Magistrates, and Other Judicial Workers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2009: Judges, Magistrate Judges, and Magistrates
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2009: Administrative Law Judges, Adjudicators, and Hearing Officers
- National Center for State Courts: Survey of Judicial Salaries; Vol. 35 No. 1; Jan. 1, 2010 (PDF)
- gavel image by Cora Reed from Fotolia.com