Supreme Court rules judges don’t have to pay Social Security

Federal judges appointed before 1983 don't have to pay Social Security taxes, the Supreme Court ruled Monday. In 1983, Congress passed a law requiring all newly hired federal employees to participate in Social Security. The law also allowed 96 percent of then-currently employed federal employees to begin participating in Social Security, but did not require them to. The remaining four percent of the federal workforce, which consisted of the President and other high-level government officials as well as all federal judges, were required to participate in Social Security unless they already contributed to certain retirement programs.

Those in such programs could modify their contributions such that their total payroll deduction for retirement and Social Security remained unchanged. This allowed them to join Social Security without incurring additional financial obligations. But federal judges' pension system was not among such programs. As a result, judges' payroll deductions had to increase. A group of federal judges appointed before 1983 said the law violated Article III, section 1 of the Constitution, commonly known as the "compensation clause." The compensation clause guarantees that federal judges' compensation will not be diminished while they are in office. On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that the compensation clause prevents the government from collecting Social Security taxes from federal judges who held office before Congress extended those taxes to federal employees.