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Pipelines, Poverty and Privilege: the Finances of Judge James Boasberg

DC District Court Judge James E. Boasberg, 53, is set to rule on the fate of the Dakota Access Pipeline on Friday. The clean drinking water of 20,000,000 of his countrymen hangs in the balance–an historic responsibility.  But if history tells us anything, it’s that class allegiance is rarely, if ever, bucked.

As reported by Democracy Now “Bank of America, HSBC, UBS, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase and other financial institutions have, combined, extended a $3.75 billion credit line to Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company of Dakota Access.”

With such a significant investment from banks already designated “too big to fail” would a member of the monied class ever rule against his own?

Boasberg attended St. Albans, a private boy’s school in the nation’s capitol located in the shadow of the National Cathedral. The prep school’s motto is Pro Ecclesia et Pro Patria, for Church and Country.  Its tuition is currently: Grades 4–12: $42,484*, Boarding School for grades 9–12: $59,892*

*New students also pay a one-time, non-refundable registration fee of $1,850 in addition to stated tuition.

Student Ethnicities (per Zillow) reveal a negligible student participation by young First Nations Peoples.

White, non-Hispanic 75%; Asian 5%; Multiracial 4%; Hispanic 3%; Black, non-Hispanic 11%; Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander 1%; Native American or Native Alaskan 0.2%

James then went to Yale, graduating in 1985 with an A.B. in History. Per Yale’s website: “Tuition and fees at Yale University are $45,800 without financial aid. With room, board, and other fees combined, total cost of attendance is $63,970.”

He crossed the Atlantic for Oxford where he earned an M.St. in Modern European History. The current fee for that program for overseas students is 17,555 British Pounds, or $23,548 per annum.

James then went to Yale Law School (his father had attended Harvard Law) where yearly tuition alone is currently $57,615. With the other ancillaries that figure rises to over $80,000 a year.

After receiving his J.D. he clerked for a year in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, where the 2016 typical Law Clerk salary is $68,173. (Per Glass Door)

He went back to San Francisco, where from 1991 to 1994 he was employed as a litigation associate at Keker and Van Nest; salaries currently range from $211k – $251k. (Per Glass Door)

Then he left San Francisco to return to Washington, DC, and from 1995 to 1996 was an associate at Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd & Evans, which according to “Above the Law” pays base salaries that are well above market: $225K for the first two years at the firm, followed by $275K after that. All associates who join the firm get a starting bonus of $175K.

He joined the Public Sector as an Assistant US Attorney in 1994. The current salary for that position is $137,086. (Per Glass Door)

He became a Superior Court Associate Judge in the District of Columbia where, according to a report in Legal Times , “judges have earned $174,000 annually since 2008, making them consistently among the highest paid general trial court judges in the country.”

Now he’s a District Judge, appointed by President Obama in 2011; his 2106 salary is $203,100.

Contrast Judge Boasberg’s lifelong financial privilege with the reality of the members of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. From Page 9 of the tribe’s Strategic Plan:

POVERTY: Widespread poverty is a major issue at Standing Rock, and is related to every obstacle addressed thus far. Both Corson and Sioux counties are “persistent poverty” counties, meaning that 20% or more of their population has lived in poverty over the last thirty years. The average 30-year poverty rate for the two counties is 42%. This kind of continuous cycle of poverty can be difficult to address.

OPPORTUNITY: Following a carefully considered Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy such as this one, which addresses many factors of the poverty cycle including employment, health, education, housing, infrastructure, and environmental concerns, will help begin to combat the cycle of poverty at Standing Rock.

The numbers presented by the American Indian Relief Council offer even more detail:

Many residents live in remote areas, far away from medical care and healthy food. Housing, both in remote areas and in towns, is in short supply, forcing many families to live in overcrowded conditions. Two out of three tribal members are jobless and residents’ annual income averages only $4,421.

Dissonances which beg the question: In the case of Persistent Privilege v. Persistent Poverty, who will prevail?

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Frances Madeson is the author of the comic novel Cooperative Village (Carol MRP Co., New York, 2007), and a social justice blogger at Written Word, Spoken Word.

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