In his year-end report on the state of the federal judiciary, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. refrained from repeating the call for pay raises for federal judges that he has issued in recent years.
Roberts acknowledged the departure in the report, released Thursday. He wrote that Chief Justice Warren Burger began issuing the annual report in 1970, "to discuss problems that federal courts face in administering justice."
In that tradition, Roberts wrote, he has used previous reports to provide "my perspective on the most critical needs of the judiciary. Many of those needs remain to be addressed."
"This year, however" he continued, "when the political branches are faced with so many difficult issues, and when so many of our fellow citizens have been touched by hardship, the public might welcome a year-end report limited to what is essential: The courts are operating soundly, and the nation’s dedicated federal judges are conscientiously discharging their duties."
Last year, Roberts issued an unusually broad and emphatic call for judicial pay raises, writing that "Given the judiciary's small cost, and its absolutely critical role in protecting the Constitution and rights we enjoy, I must renew the judiciary's modest petition: Simply provide cost-of-living increases that have been unfairly denied!"
This year, statistics throughout the five-page report illustrated the impact the economic downturn is having on the federal courts. For instance, Roberts noted, bankruptcy filings saw a 35 percent increase in 2009, and, he wrote, "filings of cases involving consumer credit, such as those filed under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, increased 53% (up 2,143 cases), fueled in part by the current economic downturn, particularly in the nation’s most populous districts."