Skip to comments.Federal Judges Sue to Win Promised Pay Increases
Posted on 12/14/2012 11:17:54 AM PST by Jacquerie
WASHINGTON (AP) -- With the nation teetering on an economic "fiscal cliff," federal judges may soon force Congress to dedicate possibly millions of dollars to what some of those same judges must consider a worthy cause: their own salaries.
Congress in 1989 limited federal judges' ability to earn money outside of their work on the bench and in exchange provided what was supposed to be automatic cost-of-living increases to judicial salaries to ensure inflation wouldn't erode the value of those salaries over time.
U.S. District Judge Royal Furgeson Jr. of Texas, one of the judges seeking class-action status, called that a "binding commitment" made by the legislative branch for the judicial branch to "receive the same yearly COLAs awarded to all other federal employees, to keep us even with inflation."
But instead of following through, Congress withheld those cost-of-living increases in 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2007 and 2010, while giving other federal employees their promised increases. "In our view, the exclusion is contrary to the commitment to us, so we have sued to enforce it," said Furgeson, a senior judge who also serves as the president of the Federal Judges Association.
(Excerpt) Read more at hosted.ap.org ...
We have to drop this nonsense about legislatures making contracts with people. No, they pass laws. It isn’t even the same Congress, and it’s perverse to pretend like it is. There’s no reason why one Congress should get to tie a future Congress’s hands. Especially not only for employment contracts. Why should that be the one area in which legislatures can’t reverse previous ones? Aside from the special esteem government workers feel for their own work.
Just to add a little accuracy to the reporting, all Federal Employees are in the third year of a pay freeze. I am not saying that shouldn’t be so, or that federal employees are not (in some or even many cases) overpaid. I am just saying that salaries are not on “autopilot”.
Sounds like they’re copying NJ judges. The legislature passed a law that all state employees had to pay a percentage of their health care premium, with the percentage increasing as an employee’s salary increased. A judge promptly filed a lawsuit, claiming that the state constitution wouldn’t allow the legislature to reduce judges’ salaries & such a health care percentage increase was an illegal reduction. Of course the appellate & supreme court divisions upheld his lawsuit. Fortunately, a state legislator got a constitutional modification on the ballot allowing such “reductions” and the voters passed it.
We’re waiting for the judges to rule that modification as unconstitutional as well.
Bingo. The next Congress is independent from this Congress. Which is exactly why any promise of future spending reductions is no promise at all because today's Congress cannot compel action in the next Congress.
...so a bunch of judges are going to go and ask a sitting judge to decide whether or not judges should get pay raises?
Gee - I wonder if the judges will win that....
Why on earth would the NJ constitution forbid reducing judges salaries? Aside from the power of the government employee lobby and constituency, I mean. Or have I answered my own question?
Were step/longevity increases frozen as well?
Well said. If they don’t like their salary and benefits they should resign. There’s no shortage of lawyers to replace them.
There’s an easy way to explain how bad this is to libs. The government employee faction ain’t listen, but screw them. Tell them to imagine the Patriot Act or the ‘01 tax cuts were ruled a contract with or a “binding commitment” to the American people, and that today’s Congress has no authority to vote them down. Then watch steam blow out of their ears.
The person who graduates at the bottom of his medical school class is called “Doctor”. What’s the person who graduates at the bottm of his law school class called?
And the senate hasn’t passed a budget in three years. Just sayin’.
A possible answer? Under a system of checks and balances, a judicial branch is supposed to be a check on both the legislative and executive branches.
It's hard for the judicial branch to be a check on the legislative branch if the legislative branch can reduce judicial salaries each time the legislative branch disagrees with a judicial opinion.
Judges should have term limits to avoid corruption.
Federal judges have the biggest taxpayer-subsidized gig going. They have a job with enormous power and prestige, taxpayer-subsidized junkets to annual, lavish “judicial conferences” where they can hobnob with their “guests” (usually lawyers who practice in their courts), no personal office overhead, and no personal liability. But, the best comes at retirement: without having to contribute to a pension plan or worry about the risks associated with investing, they get their full salary upon retirement. Think about the value of that over the course of a judgeship: a risk-free, no cost, 100% guaranteed lifetime salary. And, we foot the bill. Yes, they need more of our money.
Agree. All politicians should be term limited.
Umm... They are.
That's why there are elections. If voters don't like an incumbent, they are free to vote the bum out.
Why do you want to take away the right of voters to choose who represents them?
That’s a rather roundabout explanation, and anyway has nothing to do with the actual case. Ifsoever Congress attempted to control the judiciary in that manner I think it might run afoul of the ban on bills of attainder. They could only really punish classes of judges, and that would be an inefficient way to get them back for specific rulings.
Judges couldn’t forestall Congress from reducing salaries on whole classes of judges because they may be punitive. Congress does, after all, hold the purse strings. That is their check (or balance); the judiciary can’t take it away.
By the way, if Congress wants to punish judges for bad rulings the correct route is impeachment. It was a sad day for the Republic whenever it was we decided to against political impeachment.
That’s not a term limit, and I think you know it. Voters have no right to choose who represents them. There is merely a system whereby we allow them to vote according to various limitations. For instance, they can’t suddenly choose to vote a Congressman out in the middle of his term, no matter how many voters agree. They can’t elect a president to a third term. This is so because we were stuck with FDR as president for life because voters are stupid.
I do not recognize what you term as a "right."
The Framers did very well with our Constitution, but dropped the ball when it came to rotation in office. Previous Framers got it right in the Articles of Confederation. The annually appointed reps to Congress were limited to three years out of any term of six years. They were also subject to recall by their states.
Rotation in office would largely preclude career politicians and discourage the rise of demagogues. Returning to the real world to make an honest living on a regular basis would do wonders for our once republic.
If that judge would be held accountable by those whose sworn duty it is to do so, your wonder might be genuine.
Speaking of accountable, two of the FL supremos responsible for the Bush/Gore debacle in 2000 were up for retention votes last month.
Both were retained with about 70% of the popular vote.
Here. Here. Agreed.
I didn't mention the actual case; I responded to an extremely general question.
I also didn't mention the decrease in salary of an individual judge's salary. Your original general question used the word "judges" without an apostrophe. It wasn't clear whether you were referring to an individual judge (judge's) or two or more judges (judges'), and I interpreted your question to mean an entire class of judges.
I was thinking “Your Honor”, but your answers are just as good.
No need to apologize. Mu general-seeming questing was supposed to pertain to the case in question. I’d still like to know why you think Congress reducing classes of judges’ salaries, even if specifically designed to punish them for what they consider bad rulings, would be something the judiciary could prevent within the checks and balances system. What check do judges have on Congress’s power of the purse?
No need to apologize. My general-seeming questing was supposed to pertain to the case in question. I’d still like to know why you think Congress reducing classes of judges’ salaries, even if specifically designed to punish them for what they consider bad rulings, would be something the judiciary could prevent within the checks and balances system. What check do judges have on Congress’s power of the purse?
What checks apart from when Congress spends unconstitutionally, I mean.
Oh, damnable. I screwdriver up which cases we were talking about. Nevermind about Congress and all that. NJ’s constitution is another matter.
Gee...If they sue in feral court, who could possibly hear the case, given the blatant conflict of interest?
Royal Furgeson Jr. of Texas won’t understand the ire that Americans have towards these black-robed commies until he’s hanging from a lamppost.