Four years, eight judicial opinions, and a trip to the Supreme Court later, the CFC—on remand from the Federal Circuit’s decision finding liability—has finally ruled on what back pay the federal judges can recover. Beer v. United States, No. 09-37C, is one of several cases brought by federal judges seeking back pay under Article III of the Constitution for cost-of-living adjustments required by Article III and the Ethics Reform Act of 1989. The Ethics Reform Act severely restricted what income federal judges could earn from outside sources, such as speaking honoraria. But the Act also provided that federal judges would also receive a cost-of-living adjustment, commonly known as a COLA, every time regular federal employees received an adjustment. Yet Congress later denied funding for the judges’ COLA, not once, not twice, but six times—in 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2007, and 2010. The six judges in Beer first filed suit in 2009.
On June 10, 2013, the Federal Circuit issued its opinion in Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association v. Monsanto Company, No. 2012-1298. In that case, approximately 300,000 farmers who did not use genetically engineered crops sued Monsanto, seeking a declaratory judgment that if their crops were inadvertently contaminated with the biotech firm’s patented seed (which represent up to 90% of the seeds sown for some crops) then Monsanto could not sue them for patent infringement. The farmers also sought to have all of Monsanto’s seed patents declared invalid. But because Monsanto’s policy is that it does not sue for inadvertent use of its patented seeds, the Federal Circuit held that there was no case or controversy.