The Economics of Judicial Salaries: Justice Roberts v. Judge Judy

Josh Wright —  5 October 2009

A commentator observes that the salary disparity between Chief Justice Roberts (roughly $220,000) and Judge Judy (roughly $25 million) is the “result of markets” and asks the following question: “is there any reason to assume that simply because the market has delivered that outcome, that Judge Judy deserves to make 100 times more than Chief Justice Roberts? I would say not.”

Michael Ward (Managerial Econ) responds:

Please define terms. What do you mean by “deserves?” Chief Justice Roberts also receives the prestige of being Chief Justice while Judge Judy gets the disdain of being a TV judge. Is this deserved too? Unless there is an identifiable market failure (perhaps more likely for Roberts than Judy), I assume that each are generating value in excess of their compensation. Regardless of what they deserve, we third parties receive the excess value that they generate (whether we deserve it or not).

Another question.  Please define “result of markets” as it relates to Justice Roberts’ salary.

2 responses to The Economics of Judicial Salaries: Justice Roberts v. Judge Judy


    Once again we see a nominally “well educated” person not understand something as elementary an economic principle as the Water-Diamond Paradox. All value is subjective: “Worth more?” To whom? In what context?


    Other than the authority and power that goes to whomever is chief justice and other than the connections to be appointed, what special skills do any of the justices have that commands a high salary? Does it take any special skill not possessed by most lawyers or educated non-lawyers to write a reasoned opinion or to oversee a staff of law clerks?
    Yes, the decisions have a tremendous impact at times, but that is not due any of the justices’ skills. It is the authority of the position and goes to whoever occupies it.

    In addition, how does one Supreme Court justice do better than another? The minimum they have to do is vote with one of the sides and concur with the written opinion. Does that take a lot of skill? Moreover, they can always resign and go to work at a private law firm.