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The Federal Bar Association – Debates Over COLAs For Federal Judges

The Federal Bar Association filed a friend of the court brief urging the Supreme Court of the United States to rule in a case that challenges the denial of cost-of-living salary adjustments to federal judges.  In Peter H. Beer, et. al v. United States, No. 09-1395, seven current and retired federal judges from jurisdictions in the District of Columbia, California and Louisiana have asked the Supreme Court to reconsider a prior decision made by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Williams v. United States, that said Congress had the authority to withhold judicial pay raises dictated by the Ethics Reform Act of 1989. Although the Ethics Reform Act of 1989 was intended to establish automatic annual COLAs for federal judges and other senior officials, Congress has refused to authorize these “non-discretionary” raises in six of the past 20 years. The appellants also contend they are entitled to back pay and declaratory relief for pay raises authorized under the Ethics Reform Act of 1989.

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