WASHINGTON, Jan. 1 (UPI) -- In his annual report on the U.S. judiciary, Chief Justice William Rehnquist called Wednesday for higher pay for federal judges, increases in the number of judgeships and a quicker congressional confirmation process in the face of "record levels of activity in 2002."
"The 1,547,669 (federal court) filings represent a new all-time high," Rehnquist said in his report released on New Year's Day, noting significant increases in the number of applicants seeking federal bankruptcy protection and in non-business litigation.
Though Rehnquist said he was grateful for Congress in 2002 creating eight permanent district court judgeships and seven temporary district court judgeships and several new jobs, he said the courts need 10 appeals court judges and 24 new bankruptcy court judgeships as well as additional district court posts.
"I urge the 108th Congress to act on all of the pending requests for new judgeships during its next session," Rehnquist said.
He said now that a single party controls the presidency and both houses of Congress, it was hoped that the confirmation process of persons nominated for the federal bench would flow more quickly.
"Be that as it may," he said, "there will come a time when that is not the case," and he urged Congress and President George W. Bush "to work together to fix the underlying problems that have bogged down the nomination and confirmation process for so many years."
Rehnquist again made a plea for increased salaries for the federal bench. Though he acknowledged that federal judges make some $150,000 a year, the disparity between their pay and the pay of qualified attorneys is too great.
"Inadequate compensation seriously compromises the judicial independence fostered by life tenure," Rehnquist wrote. "That low salaries might force judges to return to the private sector rather than stay on the bench risks affecting judicial performance."
"Every time an experienced judge leaves the bench, the nation suffers temporary loss in judicial productivity," he said. "Diminishing judicial salaries affects not only those who have become judges but also the pool of those willing to be considered for a position on the federal bench."