Commentary: Judges deserve salary adjustments too

This editorial appeared in The (Raleigh) News & Observer.

On Jan. 1 of next year, federal employees, including all members of Congress, will get something called a COLA, a cost-of-living salary adjustment. One group, through a strange quirk in the law, will not be included – federal judges. They are not part of a regulation that covers other employees whenever a COLA is instituted, and several times in the last decade they've been excluded.

Let's acknowledge that many people are struggling in this economic crisis, having lost their jobs or living with the fear of losing them. They might think that federal judges being denied this increase – which is not a raise, really – is hardly a major injustice, no pun intended.

But a couple of factors need to be considered. First, there's a matter of simple fairness. If members of Congress and all other federal workers are getting an increase, it's plainly unfair to exclude one group. Second, getting top-tier attorneys to move into a judge's robes isn't easy, because the best lawyers can make much more handsome livings in private practice. Service as a federal judge comes with prestige, a lifetime appointment and a great retirement plan. But judges on this level are dealing with complex constitutional issues. Their rulings can have dramatic impact on civil liberties, to use one example, and on other basic freedoms.

To read the complete editorial, visit The (Raleigh) News & Observer.