U.S. News

U.S. federal judge quits; cites flat pay, 7 children

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal judge in California is resigning to go into private practice, saying his salary is too low to let him support his seven children.

Stephen Larson will step down from the bench on November 2, just 3-1/2 years after becoming a district judge based in Riverside, California, near Los Angeles. He was previously a federal magistrate judge for six years.

“The costs associated with raising our family are increasing significantly, while our salary remains stagnant and, in terms of its purchasing power, is actually declining,” Larson, 44, said in a statement. “I must place my family’s interest, particularly the future of my children, ahead of my own fervent desire to remain a federal judge.”

Larson’s statement was released by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, where he sits.

The judge’s cases included Mattel Inc’s successful $100 million lawsuit against MGA Entertainment Inc over a claim that a Barbie doll designer created the concept for MGA’s Bratz dolls while he was under contract to Mattel.

Raising judicial pay has been a priority for John Roberts, the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, as it was for his predecessor William Rehnquist, to prevent attrition.

The salary for a federal district judge is $169,300, roughly what a first-year associate can command at a large law firm in a big city.

While pay has risen 27 percent since 1993, consumer prices are up 49 percent, according to data from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Federal judges did not receive cost-of-living salary adjustments this year.

“Congress must provide judicial compensation that keeps pace with inflation,” Roberts, whose salary is $217,400, said in his 2008 annual report on the federal judiciary. “The judiciary’s needs cannot be postponed indefinitely without damaging its fabric.”

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel, editing by Matthew Lewis