Congress’ Denial of Judicial Cost-of-Living Salary Increases Violates Constitution, ABA Argues
CHICAGO, July 10, 2012 – Congress’ withholding of periodic salary adjustments for Article III judges as called for in the Ethics Reform Act of 1989 violates the constitutional guarantee of undiminished compensation for those judges, the American Bar Association argues in an amicus brief in Beer et al. v. United States. The case is a class action brought by current and former federal judges that is now before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
The brief cites various ABA reports and other studies that document how declining judicial pay is undermining the compensation clause’s purpose, which is to preserve the judiciary’s institutional independence and integrity. The brief notes that from 1969 to 2012, the inflation-adjusted salary of federal district judges has declined approximately 31 percent, while that of the average American worker has risen 19.5 percent.
“The ABA has concluded that Congress’s repeated blocking of the judicial cost-of-living adjustments (“COLAs”) that were established as non-discretionary by the Ethics Reform Act of 1989 has resulted in erosion of judicial pay that, due to inflation, is now so low that it seriously threatens the independence that the Compensation Clause was intended to ensure, and risks becoming insufficient to attract and retain well-qualified jurists from diverse economic and societal backgrounds,” the brief states.
The brief is available online here.
With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the world’s largest voluntary professional membership organization. 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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