Eight federal judges are pressing their claim that Congress violated the Constitution’s compensation clause when it failed to honor promised judicial salary increases in five separate years between 1995 and 2007, reports the Christian Science Monitor. A federal claims court judge threw out the judicial pay lawsuit on Oct. 16. Now the judges are asking for an expedited appeal before the entire Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
Aside from the constitutional implications and growing complaints of low judicial pay, the dispute is interesting because the judges acknowledge that under the existing legal precedent – a 2001 decision called Williams v. United States – there is no way they can win their case. For the judges to prevail, the 2001 Williams precedent must be overturned. The judicial pay dispute stems from congressional passage of the Ethics Reform Act of 1989, in which Congress placed restrictions on a federal judge’s ability to earn outside income. At the same time, Congress established a system of cost-of-living adjustments tied to compensation increases for other federal workers. The heart of the dispute is whether these actions by Congress amount to a diminishment of judicial pay.