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Law Schools Paid Judges Nearly $2M to Teach,
Lecture in 2012

Judges bring experience, status to legal education


May 26, 2014

Law schools paid federal appeals judges anywhere from several thousand dollars for a lecture to nearly $278,000 for full-semester teaching in 2012 — at once buying prestige and giving students a direct line to some of the judiciary's top legal minds.

Senior Judge Douglas Ginsburg of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit was the top earner, receiving $277,906 from New York University School of Law, according to the most recent financial disclosure reports judges must file under federal law. NYU Law paid $190,528 to D.C. Circuit Senior Judge Harry Edwards.

Ginsburg and Edwards were among five senior judges who reported law school salaries of at least $100,000, according to the disclosures.

All told, these judges were among 57 active and senior appeals judges reporting income from U.S. law schools. The NLJ reviewed 257 financial reports released in late 2013 and this year. Together, the judges earned nearly $2 million for teaching and lecturing as they navigated a thicket of ethics rules that restrict activity off the bench. The latest reports covered information from 2012.

Top-ranked law schools — including Columbia Law School, Duke Law School, Harvard Law School, NYU Law and Yale Law School — brought the most judges to campus, according to income judges reported and travel reimbursements they disclosed for moot courts and other events.

Judges burnish a school's reputation among prospective students, donors and law school rankings voters. They bring real-world expertise to the classroom as students face growing pressure to enter the job market with practical skills. And, judges say, the extra income doesn't hurt.


"I can talk to these young people about the profession and what the profession expects, and I think I do them a little service," said Senior Judge Richard Suhrheinrich of the Sixth Circuit.

Suhrheinrich earned $100,000 from Thomas M. Cooley Law School, where he was hired in 2004 as a "distinguished jurist and professor of law." He's taught part-time as an adjunct since his days in private practice. The money was a plus, he added, but it wasn't why he taught. A Cooley spokeswoman declined to comment.

Under federal law, active judges were barred from earning more than $26,955 off the bench during 2012, with exceptions for outside income such as retirement pay and publishing royalties.

The cap stops judges from taking on too much extra work, said Stephen Gillers, a professor at NYU Law. It also limits financial entanglements that could force recusals. "You want judges to spend their full time working as judges," he said. "You don't want excessive demands on their extracurricular activities."

Senior judges, on the other hand, who usually carry lighter dockets, no longer face the earnings cap in most instances.

Ginsburg and Edwards handled course loads similar to tenured or tenure-track faculty, NYU Law said. Both judges taught full time at some point before joining the bench. They declined interview requests.

NYU Law said in a statement it paid active judges based on course credits and the income limits. Senior judges "may devote significantly more time to teaching and other engagement in the intellectual life of the law school," the school said, declining to discuss specific salaries.

The financial reports show judges hired as adjuncts — a common arrangement for lawyers and judges teaching part time — often earned the same salary as nonjudges. Judges tended to hold different titles and earn more if they taught full time in the past. Law schools, however, made similar arrangements with judges who lacked the same academic pedigree.

Judges are "cost-effective" hires, said Tracey George, a professor at Vanderbilt Law School. Skills that make a good judge often carry over to the classroom, she said, and law schools see returns if students build relationships that lead to clerkships and jobs. "Judges are appealing because not only do they have the special expertise they have status," she said.

Federal appellate judges earned $184,500 in salary in 2012. Senior judges earn the same amount as active judges if they maintain a certain workload. If they don't, at a minimum they get the same salary as the year they took senior status.

Active judges reported a range of lecture fees and teaching salaries below the $26,955 cap, which also applies to certain high-ranking executive branch officials.

Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit reported six lecture fees from bar associations and law schools, including $2,500 from Georgia State University College of Law, $3,000 from Florida Coastal School of Law, $5,000 from the University of Miami School of Law and $10,000 from Northwestern Law School. He declined to comment.

Three active judges reported income above the cap. Judge Carlos Bea of the Ninth Circuit reported $97,193 in retirement income which isn't capped and $73,415 from a redacted source. Judges can only redact information for security reasons. Bea declined to comment.

Judges Frank Easterbrook of the Seventh Circuit and Debra Livingston of the Second Circuit exceeded the cap by smaller amounts. Easterbrook earned $29,000 from the University of Chicago Law School, where he taught before becoming a judge. He said in his report his net taxable income fell below the cap because of teaching-related expenses and money paid to a pension plan.

Livingston reported $27,052 from Columbia Law School, where she taught before her appointment. She did not reply to an interview request. A law school spokeswoman declined to discuss salaries.


Chief appellate judges must approve paid teaching jobs. Seventh Circuit Chief Judge Diane Wood said she makes sure a judge is current on his or her work. Then she checks that the job is legitimate.

"It has to be real teaching — it has to be students sitting there in the room," she said. Wood, who taught before becoming a judge, earned $26,955 for teaching at Chicago Law.

Judges were most often hired as adjuncts. Adjuncts on average earn between $1,500 to $3,500 per credit, depending on the school, said Marcia McCormick, a professor at Saint Louis University School of Law. Courses usually range from one to three credits.

Judge Adalberto Jordan of the Eleventh Circuit held two adjunct positions during 2012, earning $4,500 from Florida International University College of Law and $19,450 from the University of Miami School of Law. Both salaries were based on set per-credit rates, he said.

"It's something I enjoy," Jordan said. "It gives me the opportunity to meet students who are going through law school and get their perspective."

Judges often returned to their alma mater or the law school they taught at before joining the bench. Others made connections through faculty members.

"We're looking for people we're impressed by, people who would be very good teachers," said Duke Law dean David Levi, a former federal trial judge in Sacramento. "You see them running conferences, doing committee work, [you] see them in the courtroom."

Judges can be paid for teaching and lecturing at law schools and bar associations, but they can't accept honoraria. The judiciary describes an honorarium as a payment for an "appearance, speech or article" outside of approved activities.

Charles Geyh, a professor at Indiana University Maurer School of Law Bloomington, said the honorarium rule was meant to stop organizations from throwing money at judges to curry favor.

"Does it actually buy access? Probably not. But it creates perception issues the judiciary is mindful of," he said.

Federal Circuit Chief Judge Randall Rader was the only judge to report an honorarium, for a lecture he delivered at Drake University Law School. He said in an email that the school sent a $1,500 stipend without his knowledge, which his assistant listed in his report as an honorarium. Rader said he missed the entry when he approved the report and returned the money once he realized the mistake. He filed an amended report.

Judges and other officials in all three branches of government must file financial reports each spring. In 2012, 130 appeals judges reported outside income. Money new judges earned just before their appointments, plus retirement income, made up the largest share, close to $5 million.

The NLJ reviewed reports for all federal appeals judges required to file last year — save for one. The judiciary did not provide the report filed by Senior Judge Norman Stahl of the First Circuit. An official declined to discuss the delay. Stahl did not return a request for comment.

Beyond teaching, the financial reports revealed judges' other activities off the bench. Senior Judge Stephen Trott of the Ninth Circuit reported $2,000 in record sales and performance fees from The Highwaymen, a folk group Trott had played with since the 1950s.

Judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit received a $20,000 award from Duquesne University School of Law for his legal scholarship. The school presents the award annually; last year's recipient wasn't a judge.

Dean Ken Gormley said he made sure the school could legally give Posner the money. "When you're giving anything to a judge," he said, "you try to be careful about it."

Copyright 2016, ALM Media Properties, LLC

From: Zoe Tillman, "Law Schools Paid Judges Nearly $2M to Teach, Lecture in 2012," The National Law Journal, May 26, 2014, http://www.nationallawjournal.com/id=1202656334413/Law-Schools-Paid-Judges-Nearly-2M-to-Teach-Lecture-in-2012, accessed 06/23/2016.  Reprinted in accordance with the "fair use" provision of Title 17 U.S.C. § 107 for a non-profit educational purpose.  Zoe Tillman can be contacted at ztillman@alm.com.










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