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Introduction of the Federal Judicial Fairness Act of 2006

Location: Washington, DC

INTRODUCTION OF THE FEDERAL JUDICIAL FAIRNESS ACT OF 2006 -- (Extensions of Remarks - March 28, 2006)


* Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to introduce the ``Federal Judicial Fairness Act of 2006''--bipartIsan legislation to correct the current inequity in our compensation system for federal judges. I am pleased that Representative Judy Biggert has joined me in this effort, as we both serve as Co-Chairs of the Congressional Caucus on the Judicial Branch.

* Mr. Speaker, the federal judiciary is an integral part of our democracy, providing an important check to the other branches and protecting the rights of the American people. However, if certain steps are not taken, we risk compromising the quality of our judiciary. The salary of federal judges has decreased by almost 40 percent since 1969 compared with the private sector. Consequently, judges have been leaving the federal bench in increasing numbers, many before reaching retirement age, and a large proportion leaving to work for private law firms.

* Members of Congress, for a variety of reasons, have determined that it would not be appropriate to give themselves pay raises on an annual basis. Since judicial salary increases for justices and judges are linked with the salaries of Members of Congress, federal judges have also been denied a cost-of-living adjustment in the 5 of the last 13 years that Congress voted to deny themselves one.

* Several reports over the last few years have specifically recommended that salary adjustments for Members and judicial officials be determined separately. In 2003, a report by the National Commission on the Public Service (the Volcker Commission), cited "the compelling need to recruit and retain the best people possible" to serve on the federal judiciary and urged Congress to move on "an immediate and substantial increase in judicial salaries," since "the lag in judicial salaries has gone on too long, and the potential for the diminished quality in American jurisprudence is now too large."

* The late Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, William Rehnquist, also frequently stated that inadequate compensation seriously compromises the judicial independence fostered by life tenure and risks affecting judicial performance. His views were recently echoed by new Chief Justice Roberts in his Year-End Report where he stated the following:

* "There will always be a substantial difference in pay between successful government and private sector lawyers. But if that difference remains too large--as it is today--the judiciary will over time cease to be made up of a diverse group of the Nation's very best lawyers. Instead, it will come to be staffed by a combination of the independently wealthy and those following a career path before becoming a judge different from the practicing bar at large. Such a development would dramatically alter the nature of the federal judiciary."

* The "Federal Judicial Fairness Act of 2006" will address this issue and restore equity. Specifically, the bill provides for the following:

* 1. Termination of Linkage to Congressional Pay--the bill terminates the linkage of congressional pay increase to judicial pay increases, so that Congress's decision to deny itself pay raises will not also place that burden on Federal judges.

* 2. Partial Catch-Up Increase in Judicial Compensation--the bill increases the salaries of all Federal judges by 16.5 percent, to partially make up for the decline in real pay for judges over the last three decades. In 2003, both President Bush and the late Chief Justice Rehnquist agreed that a pay adjustment of at least 16.5 percent was needed.

* 3. Annual Cost-of-Living Adjustments--the bill would provide Federal judges with annual cost-of-living adjustments based on the Employee Cost Index, the index already used by the Federal Government to keep Federal salaries in line with inflation.

* This important legislation has been introduced in the Senate by Senators Feinstein, Leahy, and Kerry. Mr. Speaker, if Congress does not provide reasonable compensation adjustments nor address the growing pay disparity between judges and other members of the legal profession, the quality of our judiciary will be compromised.

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