*** Federal Judges Sue for Pay Hike
- Federal Judges Have Made Their Own Bed,Let Them Lie In It!The below article presents several questions. While it is true that Congress may not diminish the salaries of federal judges during their life-tenure, it does not follow that judges have a Constitutional right to force Congress to give them a pay raise.First, our Forefathers never contemplated "inflation," which is the expansion of the paper we call "money." It wasn't that long ago that inflation only meant something you did to your bicycle tires. Gold and silver coin cannot be inflated.One may ask the question, "Why are we using inflated paper instead of the requirement of gold and silver coin, since the federal Constitution mandates, 'No state shall ... make any thing but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debt;...' ?"Inflation is not an uncontrollable disease. So, if "inflation" is causing the judges' salaries to be "diminished," whose fault is that? Is inflated paper Constitutional? If not, then whose duty is it to see that the Constitution be followed -- Congress or the federal judiciary?Are not the federal judges complaining about a problem of their own making? And, can they be heard to complain about a problem which they themselves created? The judges should be thankful that they are getting what they are now receiving, because all they are due is the same salary which the federal judges received in 1787 -- anything additional is gratis! As a matter of fact, if they were locked into a salary of 1787, I can assure you that we would not be in the mess we are in today!Congress should never give them a raise. I say, let the federal judges shoot themselves in the foot!Second, all of the federal judges have a conflict of interest. To say, "if every judge has a conflict of interest, no judge has a conflict of interest" is like saying, "all are sinners, so no one is a sinner," and/or "all men lie, so no one lies." One could reason that since crime abounds, then crime is the norm -- thus, criminals should not be punished for being normal!
Federal Judges Sue for Pay Hike
BY JONATHAN RINGEL
American Lawyer Media
Monday, June 5, 2000
DO NOT think federal judges have not noticed big law firms' skyrocketing salaries.
Just ask Senior Judge Spencer Williams, who serves in the Northern District of California. Judge Williams is leading all life-tenured judges in a suit against the U.S. government. In a case coming to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit today, the judges say Congress has cheated them out of cost-of-living adjustments for four out of the last five years and violated the Constitution's guarantee that federal judges' compensation not be "diminished."
But Judge Williams goes beyond the case's constitutional significance when arguing why judges' pay must at least keep up with inflation. Speaking of his law clerks, Judge Williams said, "They get $130,000 the day they walk out the door," and join a big law firm.
District judges currently earn $141,300 a year, the same as members of Congress. The judges' pay would increase about $15,000 if the Federal Circuit upholds last year's ruling in favor of the judges by U.S. District Judge John Garrett Penn of the District of Columbia.
Circuit judges earn $149,900 and would also get at least a $15,000 increase, plus thousands more in back pay, if they rule for their brethren. Supreme Court justices, whose pay starts at $173,600, likewise would benefit from a ruling in the judges' favor.
The conflict of interest is not lost on anyone, but both the government and the plaintiff-judges say the federal judges are qualified to rule on the matter. They cite the "rule of necessity," a centuries-old common law principal that basically says if every judge has a conflict of interest, no judge has a conflict of interest.
Chicago litigator Kevin Forde, who represented federal judges in a similar 1980 Supreme Court case, will argue for the judges again today.
Asking judges to grant themselves a pay raise "is awkward for a moment," Mr. Forde said, but "the judges usually get over it."
In Mr. Forde's earlier case, United States v. Will, the high court ruled unanimously that judges were entitled to two raises that had been repealed by Congress after they had gone into effect, but were not entitled to two other raises that were repealed before taking effect.
The issue in this case looks more difficult, because a 1981 law the government relies on appears to conflict with a 1989 law the judges rely on.
In an even more awkward position is Justice Department appellate counsel Douglas Letter, who has the job of asking the judges to rule against the pay raise.
He declined to comment for this article, but his brief argues that Congress has no obligation to grant salary increases, and that the 1981 law requires specific authorization by Congress for a judicial pay increase. The brief also calls arguments over whether judges should get pay increases irrelevant.Our thanks to Lori of New York for bringing this to our attention. -Ron Branson-
J.A.I.L. (Judicial Accountability Initiative Law)
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