The Supreme Court issued a grave ruling on Monday.
The justices said a decision on an equal pay lawsuit written by Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California doesn’t count because it was issued 11 days after the 87-year-old died on March 29, 2018.
“Federal judges are appointed for life, not for eternity,” the high court ruled in the unsigned opinion.
“Because Judge Reinhardt was no longer a judge at the time when the en banc decision in this case was filed, the Ninth Circuit erred in counting him as a member of the majority. That practice effectively allowed a deceased judge to exercise the judicial power of the United States after his death,” the Supreme Court wrote.
A note on the Ninth Circuit Court’s decision said that Reinhardt “fully participated in this case and authored this opinion,” adding that the majority vote was taken and his and the other judges’ opinions were written before his death.
The justices said they were unaware of any judicial practice in the Ninth Circuit that “renders judges’ votes and opinions immutable at some point in time prior to their public release. And it is generally understood that a judge may change his or her position up to the very moment when a decision is released.”
They went on to say that because Reinhardt was no longer a judge when the decision was issued, the court could not count him among the majority.
Without Reinhardt’s vote, the decision was approved by only five of the 10 members of the court.
The justices sent the case back to the Ninth Circuit for reconsideration.
The case involved the federal Equal Pay Act that requires men and woman generally be paid equally for the same work and whether under the law employers can use past salaries to justify pay imbalances.
“The answer is clear: No,” Reinhardt wrote in his decision.
With Post wires
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