CERTIFICATE FROM THE COURT OF CLAIMS.
Hughes, Van Devanter, McReynolds, Brandeis, Sutherland, Butler, Stone, Roberts, Cardozo
MR. JUSTICE ROBERTS delivered the opinion of the Court.
The Court of Claims has certified two questions:
"1. Does a United States District or Circuit Judge who, having served continuously for ten years and attained the age of seventy years, does not resign but retires under the provisions of section 260 of the Judicial Code, as amended, continue in office within the meaning of section 1 of article III of the Constitution which forbids diminution of the compensation of Judges during their continuance in office?
"2. Where the salary of a United States District or Circuit Judge is increased by law after his appointment and he has subsequently retired in full compliance with the provisions of section 260 of the Judicial Code, as amended; is a reduction of his compensation as a retired Judge to an amount not below that fixed by law as his salary at the time of his appointment a diminution of his compensation within the meaning of section 1 of article III of the Constitution?"
We are informed by the certificate in No. 656 that Wilbur F. Booth was appointed United States Circuit Judge for the Eighth Judicial Circuit on March 18, 1925, and qualified March 27, 1925. For many years prior to and up to the time of this appointment he had held the office of judge of the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota, and on November 28, 1931, he had served continuously as District or Circuit Judge for more than seventeen years. January 1, 1932, having attained the age of seventy, he retired, pursuant to the provisions of § 260 of the Judicial Code as amended. Since his retirement he has continued to perform the duties of a
retired United States Circuit Judge in the manner provided by law, and has participated in the hearing and decision of many cases pending in the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.
At the time of Judge Booth's appointment as Circuit Judge the annual compensation was fixed by law at $8,500 per annum. It was subsequently increased to $12,500 per annum, at which figure it stood when he retired. By § 13 of the Independent Offices Appropriation Act of June 16, 1933 [c. 101, 48 Stat. 283, 307] it was provided:
"For the period of the fiscal year ending June 30, 1933, remaining after the date of the enactment of this Act, and during the fiscal year ending June 30, 1934, the retired pay of judges (whose compensation, prior to retirement or resignation, could not, under the Constitution, have been diminished) is reduced by 15 per centum."
By reason of this Act the plaintiff was paid during the period from June 15, 1933, to October 1, 1933, at the rate of $10,625 per annum. The amount withheld from him during that period was $697.93. He duly protested against the reduction, and brought suit in the Court of Claims, asserting that the Act violates the provision of the Constitution which forbids diminution of the compensation of federal judges during their continuance in office. The Government demurred to the petition.
The relevant facts certified in No. 657 are that Charles F. Amidon was appointed Judge of the United States District Court for the District of North Dakota on February 18, 1897, and qualified on February 27, 1897. From the date last mentioned to June 2, 1928, he served continuously in that capacity. Having attained the age of seventy years he retired June 2, 1928, pursuant to § 260 of the Judicial Code as amended, and has ever since continued to perform the duties of a ...