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judicial compensation, limited jurisdiction

Subject Categories

Jurisdiction | Law | Legal History


Article III's provision for the compensation of federal judges has been much celebrated for the no-diminution provision that forecloses judicial pay cuts. But other features of Article III's compensation provision have largely escaped notice. In particular, little attention has been paid to the framers' apparent expectation that Congress would compensate federal judges with salaries alone, payable from the treasury at stated times. Article III's presumption in favor of salary-based compensation may rule out fee-based compensation, which was a common form of judicial compensation in England and the colonies but had grown controversial by the time of the framing. Among other problems, fee-paid judges were understood to have a financial interest in expanding their jurisdiction. By placing federal judges on salary, Article III may have provided subtle institutional support for the notion that federal courts were to be courts of limited jurisdiction.