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Now appearing as class action plaintiffs: federal judges

Seven federal district and circuit court of appeals judges filed a class action complaint on Nov. 30 in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims to recover, on behalf of more than 1,000 of their colleagues, pay raises since 2003 that they say were authorized by law but improperly rescinded by Congress.

The judges rely on a decision from a full panel of the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals in October, Beer v. United States, in which six federal judges had sued individually to recover those raises.  In Beer, the court held that federal judges were entitled to damages in the amount of pay raises they should have received, under the Ethics Reform Act of 1989, since 2003.

Quoting from that case, the judges contend that what was good for the individual judges is good for their colleagues as well:

When Congress promised protection against diminishment in real pay in a definite manner and prohibited judges from earning outside income and honoraria to supplement their compensation, that Act triggered the expectation-related protections of the Compensation Clause for all sitting judges. A later Congress could not renege on that commitment without diminishing judicial compensation.

The ruling in Beer meant about a $25,000 bump in base pay for each of the judges.

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