SCOTUS: Congress Violated Constitution's Compensation Clause for Federal Judiciary


The U.S. Supreme Court on April 22 left standing a lower appeals court's decision finding that Congress violated the Constitution's Compensation Clause when it withheld cost of living salary adjustments from federal judges six times during a 15-year period. The denial of review in U.S. v. Beer affirms the independence of the judiciary and the Constitution's admonishment to Congress to refrain from diminishing the salaries of judges. The Supreme Court's action also clears the way for the restoration of back pay of nearly a thousand federal judges. The Federal Bar Association welcomed the Supreme Court's announcement.

The en banc U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled in October that a 1989 law required Congress to uphold the law 's "precise and definite commitment" to automatic yearly cost of living adjustments for members of the federal judiciary. The FBA had filed amicus briefs at four times throughout the life of the underlying lawsuit, in support of the judges' case.