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US Supreme Court Retirement Benefits

A Full Salary for Life


Retiring U.S. Supreme Court justices are entitled to a lifetime pension equal to their highest full salary. In order to qualify for a full pension, retiring justices must have served for a minimum of 10 years provided the sum of the justice's age and years of Supreme Court service totals 80.

As of 2010, Associate Justices of the Supreme Court earned an annual salary of $213,900, while the Chief Justice is paid $223,500.

Why a Lifetime Full Salary?
Congress established the retirement for Supreme Court justices at full salary in the Judiciary Act of 1869, the same law that settled the number of justices at 9. Congress felt that since Supreme Court justices, like all federal judges, are well paid and appointed for life; a lifetime pension at full salary would encourage judges to retire rather than attempting to serve during extended periods of poor health and potential senility. Indeed, fear of death and decreased mental capacity are often cited as a motivating factors in judges' decisions to retire.

President Franklin Roosevelt summed Congress' reasoning up in his Fireside Chat of March 9, 1937, when he stated, "We think it so much in the public interest to maintain a vigorous judiciary that we encourage the retirement of elderly judges by offering them a life pension at full salary."

Health Care Benefits
Federal judges, similar to members of Congress, are covered by the Federal Employee Health Benefits system and Medicare. Federal judges are also free to acquire private health and long-term care insurance.

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