Federal Judges Defeat Salary Freeze and Gain Five-Figure Raises

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After fighting multiple congressional legislations dating from the 1990s, which were passed in response to political fervor over Congress being overpaid, and by which Congress members acceded to self-limiting their cost-of-living increases, but also pooled in federal judges to such pruning, six judges have emerged victorious. They have not only won their rights to have their pay periodically increased to match their increased costs of living, but also garnished over a decade of back pay. In the case of these six plaintiffs, the total amounts to about $940,000.

Their success was announced in the final order issued in the matter last month at the Court of Federal Claims. The Appeals Court blocked the appeasement laws Congress passed in 1995, 1996, 1997, and 1999, as well as two further laws in 2007 and 2009, as unconstitutional.



What this ultimately means is that the federal judges were unconstitutionally included with Congress during the self-limitations, and that they should receive periodic raises, and of course all the back pay for the years of contrition - amounting to checks cut for around $150,000 for individual judges.

This adds up to five-figure raises for most federal judges, such as the Chief Justice's salary being raised from $223,500 to $255,000, the salaries of other Supreme Court Justices going up from $213,000 to $244,000, and those of U.S. District Court judges being raised from $174,000 to $199,100.

According to Bloomberg, salaries of federal jurists rose by 14 percent on January1, as years of catch-up cost-of-living adjustments were added to their paychecks. "The law had promised them they would get these adjustments in the years all federal employees got them and Congress blocked them," said Washington lawyer Christopher Landau, who won this case for the six judges.

It amounts to a severance of the judiciary from Congress's own business of posturing and public spectacles of sacrificing, and the other political finagling characteristics of certain members of the legislature. The decision follows an old 1989 quid pro quo in which judges agreed to ban outside income in exchange for automatic maintenance of compensation. Since this legislation was in place, they were not constitutionally obligated to keep stride with Congress.

All 781 members of the federal judiciary and the 93 vacant judgeships were affected by this legislation, allowing the judiciary to sever their conscription with Congress and keep stride with the standard of living on their own terms.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder had already scripted letters of appeasement in 2013, but the final legislation wasn't completed until last month. It was fortunate for the judges to have signed on to the 1989 Ethics Reform Act, Public Law 101-94, to wrangle their way out of being tied with Congressional maneuvering, giving them their ultimate mode of financial independence from the whims of politicians.

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