William F. Buckley

Notes from the diary of John Jay Postlewaite, retrieved from the salvage of his yacht, Fleetfoot, capsized while racing to Bermuda, no survivors. The lawyer's diary was well preserved in a waterproof case. The diver gave the diary to a reporter from the Bermuda Express, who published the entry written the day before the yacht set out on its fatal trip from Newport, R.I. The heading on the page was: Should I accept offer of judgeship?

Yes Number 1: There's no denying it -- the judiciary is a hallowed profession in America. I've been practicing law for 25 years. It took a while to get used to addressing some of the idiots I've practiced before as "Your Honor" etc., but that's the way the world works. And now the prospect is that everyone will be addressing ME as "Your Honor."

Yes Number 2: As Senator Longo reminded me, this is a lifetime appointment. It's a federal judgeship, and federal judges aren't even up for election every few years, the way state judges are. Is that undemocratic? Well, I haven't been asked to serve on a commission to reconstitute the U.S. judiciary. As far as J.J. Postlewaite is concerned, that's it. Say I live to 80 ... I could quit at 70, but I could keep just enough of a caseload to retain my office and staff up to 80, and serving in senior status is not ... exhausting. Certainly not as exhausting as tomorrow's race to Bermuda will be, judging from last time out.

No Number 1: It does mean less money. I pulled in $350,000 last year. If I accept this appointment to the bench, my salary becomes the same as a member of Congress: $165,200. When the legislators get a raise, the judges get a raise, but members of Congress are influenced by other considerations than justice when it comes to voting themselves a raise.

No Number 2: Then there is that irksome 1989 business. They called it the Ethics Reform Act. Everybody is talking about being fair to judges, but they forget to bring up the Ethics Reform Act. It prohibits judges from earning income from most of the other activities judges used to go in for, sitting-on-boards kind of thing. That would cost me about 75 grand a year. In return, the act promised regular cost-of-living increases, hah hah. There haven't been any such increases in five of the last 13 years.


William F. Buckley

William F. Buckley, Jr. is editor-at-large of National Review, the prolific author of Miles Gone By: A Literary Autobiography.

Be the first to read William Buckley's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com delivered each morning to your inbox.