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ABA wants ruling on judges’ COLAs

The American Bar Association this week filed an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in Beer v. U.S. on whether Congressional denial of cost-of-living salary adjustments for federal judges compromises judicial independence, in violation of the Constitution. 

The Ethics Reform Act of 1989 was intended to establish automatic annual COLAs for federal judges and other senior officials, but Congress has not authorized the raises in six of the past 20 years, the ABA’s brief state. 

“While inflation-adjusted wages for the average American worker have risen 19.5 percent since 1969, salaries for federal district judges have dropped by 27 percent over the same period,” a release from the association states.

“[J]udicial pay … is now so low as to seriously compromise the independence that life tenure was intended to ensure and … is insufficient to attract and retain well-qualified jurists from diverse economic and societal backgrounds,” the ABA states.

The brief states it should not be interpreted to reflect the views of judicial members of the ABA, and positions it expresses were not circulated to nor endorsed by any council member of the ABA Judicial Division before adoption.

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