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Judicial pay case gets ABA support

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Indiana Lawyer Rehearing

The American Bar Association wants the Supreme Court of the United States to take a case that asks whether congressional denial of cost-of-living adjustments for federal judges compromises judicial independence and violates the Constitution.

Eight current or former federal judges from District and Circuit levels are embroiled in litigation that’s gone as high as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which challenges the lawmakers’ refusal to adjust salaries six times during the past 20 years – even though the Ethics Reform Act of 1989 stipulated that Congress would have to authorize these “non-discretionary” automatic annual COLAs for federal judges and other senior officials.

The judges initially filed suit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in January 2009, but the court dismissed that complaint, Peter H. Beer, et al. v. U.S., No. 09-1395, in October. The judges appealed and filed for a ruling en banc with the Federal Circuit, but the appellate court declined in January. The judges filed a writ for certiorari in May.

In a brief filed June 17, the ABA contends that the justices’ review is warranted because the continued diminution of judicial salaries threatens the judiciary’s independence and quality of work. Judges across the nation have advocated for salary increases for the federal judiciary, including those from Indiana and members of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Chief Justice John Roberts has called for Congress to raise judges’ salaries by as much as 24 percent, and he has said that low salaries hurt the courts’ ability to hire and retain qualified judges.
 

Rehearing of "Judicial COLA loses carbonation again" IL Dec. 24, 2008-Jan. 6, 2009

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