Federalist Papers Summary 79
The Federalist Essays Summary No 79: Alexander Hamilton May 28, 1788
This paper discusses the compensation for judges and how they can be removed from office. As with the compensation for the president which is provided by the House of Representatives, a power over a man’s subsistence amounts to a power over his will. Therefore leaving the source of compensation for judges up to the occasional grants of the legislature would deprive the former of independence from the latter. The Constitution addresses this problem by declaring that at stated times judges shall receive for their services a compensation which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.
Hamilton believes this is “the most eligible provision that could have been devised” while also noting that in time the value of money may decrease. It is left up to the legislature to increase the compensation as the value of money decreases but it can never decrease the amount so a judges position can never be decreased by the legislature. Since the president’s term is much shorter there is also a provision that his salary can not be increased while in office.
Judges can only be removed from office by impeachment by the house and tried and found guilty by the senate. Some have complained that there should be other means for removal, perhaps due to a loss of the faculties of the mind. Doing so would often leave the judgment to those with personal or party attachments and would not advance the public good. The exception would be insanity which can safely be pronounced a virtual disqualification.
New York has set an age limitation of sixty so as to avoid having to decide on a loss of mental faculties. But people spending their lives as judges making constant decisions have mental capabilities long past sixty and with no pension a person past sixty would have few means of supporting himself. Thus our republic “ought to have some better apology to humanity than is to be found in the imaginary danger of a superannuated bench”.
Federalist Papers Summary 79 Written by Donald Mellon