U.S. Supreme Court

Cert denial could lead to boost in federal judges' pay


Federal judges may be closer to winning promised cost-of-living adjustments after the U.S. Supreme Court declined cert last month in an appeal by six present and former federal judges.

The judges in Beer v. United States claimed the failure to pay COLA increases for six different years amounted to a violation of the compensation clause, the Washington Post reports. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit had agreed, citing a congressional decision in 1989 that created “basic expectations and protections” on judges’ pay, according to SCOTUSblog’s account of the October 2012 decision.

The 1989 law restricted judges’ outside income while providing cost of living adjustments when other federal employees got the increases. If the COLAs had been paid, a district judge’s salary would be $197,000 instead of $174,000, and an appeals judge’s pay would be $209,100 instead of $184,500, the Post says.

Only the six plaintiffs stand to recover damages in the Beer case. Still pending, however, is a class action suit that could include all federal judges, Barker v. United States.

SCOTUSblog covered the cert denial in Beer here and linked to relevant documents here.

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