WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - A federal appeals court has ruled that Congress was wrong to withhold judicial pay raises.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued the 10-2 decision Friday, agreeing with six current and former federal judges alleged Congress violated the Constitution's Compensation Clause by blocking raises several times since 1995.

A majority opinion authored by Chief Judge Randall Rader said that the "Rule of Necessity" prevented the court from passing off a case that presented such an obvious conflict of interest.

"All sitting federal judges are entitled to expect that their real salary will not diminish due to inflation or the action or inaction of the other branches of government," Randall wrote.

"The judicial officer should enjoy the freedom to render decisions - sometimes unpopular decisions - without fear that his or her livelihood will be subject to political forces or reprisal from other branches of government."

Rader also wrote that the judiciary is the weakest of the three branches of government and must protect itself.

Judges William Bryson and Timothy Dyk dissented.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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