Three senior judges in the District of Columbia Superior Court are suing the federal government over their retirement salaries, claiming their pay is too low.
In a complaint filed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Superior Court senior judges Stephanie Duncan-Peters, Brook Hedge and Judith Retchin said the Secretary of the Treasury wrongly calculated their retirement salaries in light of recent court rulings approving raises for some federal judges.
Under the D.C. Code, Superior Court judges are paid the same salary as U.S. district judges; the local court system is funded by the federal government. Since 2008, associate judges in Superior Court earned an annual salary of $174,000, the same as U.S. district judges, according to data compiled by the National Center for State Courts.
In recent years, federal judges have challenged Congress' decision to deny them cost-of-living raises. In 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found in Beer v. United States that Congress was wrong to deny the salary increases. A judge determined that the U.S. district judges who sued should be earning an annual salary of $197,100, not $174,000.
In a separate case, Cornish v. United States, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims found this year that the Federal Circuit's ruling in Beer applied to judges—U.S. bankruptcy judges, in that case—whose pay was tied to salaries earned by judges appointed appointed under Article III of the U.S. Constitution, a group that included U.S. district judges. The government is appealing that ruling.
The Superior Court judges' retirement salaries are calculated based on a judge's pay when he or she retired, according to the complaint. Duncan-Peters, Hedge and Retchin argue the two court rulings in Beer and Cornish apply to them as well and that, as a result, their retirement pay was miscalculated.
The complaint filed today didn't specify the salary the Superior Court judges earned after taking senior status or the amount they were seeking. The judges' lawyer, local solo practitioner John McAvoy, declined to discuss salary details in a phone interview this afternoon.
According to the complaint, the judges already have an administrative claim pending with the Secretary of the Treasury, which administers the D.C. Judicial Retirement and Survivors Annuity Fund. They said they filed the complaint now to avoid running up against the deadline for filing a lawsuit.
Duncan-Peters, Hedge and Retchin could not immediately be reached today for comment. Duncan-Peters took senior status in 2011 and Hedge and Retchin became senior judges in 2010.
A Treasury spokesman declined to comment.