January 2010

Judicial Pay
On Nov. 3, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced bipartisan legislation that addresses the root cause underlying ongoing erosion in the pay of federal judges. The Federal Judicial Fairness Act of 2009 (S. 2725) delinks federal judicial pay from congressional pay and, instead, links future judicial pay raises to the annual adjustments received by federal civil servants under the General Schedule. The bill also repeals § 140 of Pub. L. 97-92, which requires separate congressional approval of each annual salary adjustment received by the federal judiciary.

Federal judicial compensation has declined dramatically and fallen well behind inflation over the past 30 years. Since 1969, the inflation-adjusted salaries of federal judges has declined by 24 percent, whereas federal civil servants’ salaries have kept pace with inflation, increasing by 18 percent since 1969. This chiefly has been due to congressional restraint in limiting its own pay, which in turn has deprived federal judges of pay raises. Even though Sen. Feinstein’s bill would not retroactively provide any catch-up raise for the judiciary to make up for past erosion of their salaries, the bill would take judicial pay out of the political issue of congressional pay and provide the assurance that judges will not be unfairly denied raises in the future.

Cameras in the Courtroom
On Nov. 5, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), a frequent proponent of having cameras in the federal courts, introduced a nonbinding resolution (S. Res. 339) that would encourage the Supreme Court to provide for television broadcast coverage of its proceedings. Unlike past measures introduced by Specter that would mandate television coverage, Specter’s resolution would only encourage broadcast coverage so as to defer to the Court and avoid, as Specter has admitted, a potential constitutional confrontation. The FBA in the past has not taken a position on camera coverage at either the appellate or district court level (because membership opinion has been split), but the association continues to monitor the issue closely.

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