The Effect of Wage Increases on Judicial Corruption

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Devin Wesenberg


This paper explores the relationship between judicial corruption and judicial wages in state-level U.S. courts. Specifically, this paper studies whether increases in wages lead to a decrease in the frequency with which prosecutors charge judges with ethics violations. Many previous scholars focus on public service job performance and wage increases; however, little research exists surrounding judicial corruption and wage increases. To test this relationship, the study utilizes empirical data from 1974 to 2020, collected from the judicial conduct boards of each state, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the National Center for State Courts website. In addition, the researcher conducted a difference-in-differences analysis of state prosecutions using salary as a predictor with number of jurists, state GDP per capita, and conduct board budget as possible confounding variables. The findings suggest that, in general, there is a statistically insignificant relationship between judicial corruption and salary increases. In fact, the variable that impacted corruption the greatest was a conduct board’s budget. Furthermore, conduct board budgets had a positive correlation with the number of corruption complaints, meaning that as a conduct board’s budget increases, the number of corruption complaints also increases. These results provide the important insight that a conduct board’s budget has a significant impact on the number of judicial complaints. Future research could explore how variables such as cost of living, wages of judicial peers, and number of statewide corruption prosecutions influence judicial corruption.

Keywords: judicial corruption, civil servants, salary, Efficiency Wage Theory, Fair Wage Effort Hypothesis, prosecutions

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Business, Law and Politics