ABA Urges Supreme Court to Rule on Law Denying Federal Judge COLAs
CHICAGO, June 17, 2010—The American Bar Association yesterday filed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court of the United States to rule in Beer vs. U.S. on whether Congressional denial of cost-of-living salary adjustments for federal judges compromises judicial independence, violating the Constitution. Although the Ethics Reform Act of 1989 was intended to establish automatic annual COLAs for federal judges and other senior officials, Congress has refused to authorize these “non-discretionary” raises in six of the past 20 years, notes the brief. While inflation-adjusted wages for the average American worker have risen 19.5 percent since 1969, salaries for federal district judges have dropped by 27 percent over the same period. “[J]udicial pay … is now so low as to seriously compromise the independence that life tenure was intended to ensure and … is insufficient to attract and retain well-qualified jurists from diverse economic and societal backgrounds,” says the ABA. The brief states it should not be interpreted to reflect the views of judicial members of the ABA, and positions it expresses were not circulated to nor endorsed by any council member of the ABA Judicial Division before adoption.
With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.
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