Helping Judges Get Their Due

The disparity between what federal judges are paid compared to private lawyers has caused numerous jurists to leave the bench recently in search of greener pastures as part of a troubling, ongoing trend. Famously, Congress has not approved a pay increase for those serving on the federal bench in nearly 25 years despite promising in the Ethics Reform Act of 1989 to regularly boost their salaries based on cost-of-living adjustments.

Thankfully, a group of determined lawyers and law firms has stepped up to help make sure the men and women who preside over our federal courts are able to get the pay they were promised and deserve. According to media reports, the law firms, which are located throughout the country, have helped current and retired judges and the families of deceased federal jurists collect more than $350 million in back pay during the past two years alone. The ability to seek back pay through the U.S. Court of Federal Claims gained significant traction in 2013 when former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told leaders in Congress that the Department of Justice would not pursue appeals if federal judges were awarded back pay in court.

Being able to retain qualified judges is directly tied to what they are paid versus what they might be able to make elsewhere, whether that means working in private practice or pursuing some other type of work. Recent history demonstrates the that simply being a federal judge and having a job for life with a relatively comfortable salary aren’t enough to ensure that those who are best suited to do the job will actually end up on the bench.

That is why it is so important that a small group of law firms was able to take up the cause on behalf of handful of judges and make sure they received what they were truly owed. Until Congress decides to make good on a promise it made the same year that Taylor Swift was born, then these firms represent our best chance at keeping experienced jurists on the federal bench.

Posted: 6/28/2016 7:27:14 AM by On the Merits Editor | with 0 comments

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Thanks for stopping by On the Merits, the first blog from the Texas Center for Legal Ethics. On the Merits will take a close look at significant legal stories with an eye toward addressing the legal myths and misconceptions that turn up in news stories, movies, TV programs, websites, anonymous emails and other forms of mass communications. Our goal at On the Merits is to provide readers with a thoughtful examination of what the media and others are saying about the legal profession and to apply the frequently-absent context of how the legal system actually works.

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