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"This Government is shot through with military retired personnel who are drawing part of their retirement compensation along with their civilian pay as Government employees. In fact, Congress has made exceptions several times to exempt high-ranking military personnel from the Dual Compensation Act, in order to allow them to serve in Government service.
There are judges who have been State judges who are receiving their State retirement benefits—and I wouldn't have it otherwise. They made their contribution. The law says they are entitled to it. And certainly I think they are entitled to it.
And, of course, there are Federal judges, both former Members of Congress and civil service annuitants, who are drawing their retirement benefits. And I would not have that otherwise, because they are entitled to it.
I'd like to make this one further personal reference and I'll be through. I have spent my entire life in public service. I have not had an opportunity to make investments. I did not practice law while I was a Member of the Congress. I am not covered by social security:
Other members of the Federal bench who had an opportunity to engage in private practice before they came to the bench have participated in the social security program and they are entitled to social security retirement benefits after they retire.
Except just for a small savings account, an equity in our home, and some savings bonds, Mrs. Thornberry and I have relied on our contributions made to this retirement fund as the only investment we have. And I assume you can tell from what I have said that I really feel, I really feel deeply that this committee, if it's going to pass this bill, ought to make it prospective only and ought not to apply to those who have been appointed Federal judge without notice—without notice that this would occur to them during their service.
Now I don't know why—I'm going beyond what my own personal concern is-you'd want to say to Members of Congress who have rendered honorable service to their country and might have an opportunity to be appointed to the Federal bench, to say to them that, "If you're appointed, you'll have to give up your entitlement to retirement rights.” I realize that if you make this bill prospective, it would not apply to me.
In conclusion, I say to the committee, I hope that if you feel that this bill ought to be passed that you will make it prospective, that it will not apply to those who are now Federal judges.
I would ask you to seriously consider, though, whether you want to pass any bill that would say to a Member of Congress who has contributed over the years that if he has an opportunity to serve on the Federal bench, he'll have to surrender those benefits.
Mr. WHITE. Judge Harris.
STATEMENT OF HON. OREN HARRIS, U.S. SENIOR DISTRICT JUDGE,
EL DORADO, ARK.
Judge HARRIS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. First, I apologize for the hoarseness that I have been hit with for the past couple of days. Sec
ond, let me say that it's a great pleasure for me to be back here on the Hill and have the opportunity of visiting with my old colleagues. I can look around, though, and tell there have been a lot of changes. Even in the members of this committee, I observe, at least Mr. Daniels and Mr. Udall were Members when I was here, but the others of you, I think, have invaded these premises since I lived here 10 years ago. Your chairman, of course, was here when I was here and I enjoyed the association with him.
I have had mixed feeling all these years about leaving the Congress. After serving here more than 25 years, it was a very difficult decision to make, and I would suspect that had it not been for a little urging of me on behalf of certain very important people, including my two Senators and one attorney general, and two Presidents, I doubt if I would ever have accepted the judgeship.
I was here when the congressional retirement program was adopted in 1946. I would not indulge upon your time to explain some of the things that happened on the floor of the House, some of the stories that were told at that time, including the story of our old colleague long ahead of us, Joe Cannon, what happened to him.
So I think if you read the intent of the Congressional Retirement Act, you will get a full picture of the reasons why Congress, after a long and very delicate consideration of the program, finally decided to provide the Retirement Act. The late Senator Dirksen, Senator Monroney, and others had a lot to do with the policies that weni into that program.
At that time, we had to pay back, if we desired to do so, to such a period of time that would make us qualified after the service of that particular Congress. I paid back my 3 years so I could become eligible at the end of that particular Congress, which was in 1947 and 1948.
Along came the amendment to the bill later, I think, in 1956, I believe it was, that I didn't realize that we had adopted in the Congress. You know how it is trying to keep up witheverything; it is impossible. But I learned that we had adopted an amendment that required that we repay into the fund all of our service if we expected to get credit for it. So I, therefore, paid back to 1941, which was when I came to the Congress. So I have had experience in contributing to the congressional retirement fund for over 25 years.
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I have a letter that I addressed to your distinguished chairman, Mr. Henderson. With it I have submitted documents so you could have the complete record of my experience,
I would like for the letter and also the documents that accompany it placed in the record because it gives the continuity of what happened in my case. And I would like to say that we are here presenting to you, I think, a very complete picture, because Mr. Bennett, even though he served in the House of Representatives, and, incidentally, was on what I used to call my committee-obviously it wasn't mine any more than it was any other Member of the Congress, but I was delighted to serve as chairman of that great committee, and Mr. Bennett served on that committee, but his outstanding service since then and the tremendous experience that he has had outside of congressional service puts him in a different category, and then Mr. Thornberry, having not yet reached
the stage where he can take his retirement under 371-B of the Judicial Retirement Act, presents to you a picture where he is in between.
I come to you, as the statement reveals, as one who has met all of the requirements. I have paid into the fund over 25 years, as I have stated; I have had the very unusual experience of serving as judge for more than 10 years. I have reached the stage of eligibility. I am past 70. As I state in this letter, I am past 72. I don't like for the time to slip up like that, but that is a cold fact that I cannot help. So I decided I would take my retirement under the act, not because of this, I say in all candor to you, because we are so far behind in our work in Arkansas, it would give us a chance to get another judge, and we need it; we need two
But that' what brought on my retirement. I didn't know this problem was in the mill. I had no idea what was taking place. All I did, I just found out when I wrote a letter to the Civil Service Commission telling them that I had reached the stage where I had met all the requirements and, therefore, asked for my retirement to be effectuated. And since I didn't hear from them, and haven't heard yet, to tell you the truth about it, I thought there was something wrong. Then this happened.
I say in all candor to you, Mr. Chairman, I thought that I was responsible for it and I began to get uneasy. And then, after making some investigation, I found that it was an overall problem.
Now there are one or two other things that I want to mention here that have not been touched on by Judges Bennett and Thornberry. I think the fact that you have the three of us as examples in different categories should be important in connection with this problem. But I think one of the things that I have learned, and I really don't know too much about the background and what brought it on, frankly-I talked to a good many people—but I think what brought this on, Mr. Chairman, as I understood from your statement a moment ago and what was said by other members, that there has become a widespread procedure whereby certain people, some here on the Hill, frankly, and others, wanted to take their retirement for justifiable reasons and then turn around and become reemployed.
And evidently that has gotten abroad, rather widely spread over the United States, and this procedure then permits these people to retire, become reemployed, and then be—as a consultant, and in that instance, they will get increased benefits by having retired that they couldn't get by continuing until retirement.
I say in all candor I am one of those. I suspect that I'm one of the first ones. As chairman of the Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee, Allen Purley, one of the great professional men on the committee staff of this Congress, an outstanding individual, asked me to permit him to do this. And this has been a long time ago, Mr. Chairman, because I've been gone over 10 years, and this was prior to that time. And I let him do it.
I had another one who wanted to do it that worked under me, Jim Menger. And then he left about the time I did, was gone, and came back again. Now since then, I think you will find by investigation that this has become more widespread and a lot more people have engaged in it.
Then this brought the attention to certain people looking at it on the reemployment situation. So I think, Mr. Chairman, if it's based solely on reemployment, then the judiciary is in an altogether different position than that category of people who are employed by the Federal Government. And I think that is a distinction that you should take into consideration here, notwithstanding the fact that some of us who have already had a vested right here really do wish to call to your attention that this is a fact.
Judge Bennett mentioned this a moment ago, and it is a fact. Let me say on that just this one word further. I, too, have been in the public service virtually all my professional life, having started in 1933 and I have had it continuously. I don't know what I would do. My wife said to me the other day, "If it's necessary to go to court, would you do it?” I said, "I don't know."
I have had respect for my Government and have worked with it all these years. I would be reluctant to ever get into any litigation with the Government that I had worked for so long, and the fact that I love it, I love the service, and love those with whom I have served with. And I would certainly be put to a great, difficult decision if I had to make that decision, because, as this record shows, I retired in 1965–1966, the early part of 1966, and I became a member of the retired civil service people. It was deferred, as I have stated in the letter, until the time I retired under the Judicial Retirement Act, 371-B, title 28.
Now, having reached that point, I have gone the further step, the last step in the requirements, and that is I have become a senior judge, certified by the Administrative Office of the United States, recognized by the chief judge of the 8th circuit, of my own two chief judges in my State, because I serve in two districts, the Eastern and Western Districts, and so I believe, as the 2d circuit has said in two cases on the question of a vested right in a retirement program, albeit they were in tax cases, but the retirement pay became involved as to whether or not it was taxable. And the Circuit
Court of Appeals on those two cases, said, "He had a vested right. We cannot presume that the Congress would undertake, to deprive him of the right.”
So I would seriously consider the judiciary as a whole, overall and not put us in a light that we are trying to do something that you thought we were not entitled to. Newspapers have carried the story about the hundreds of judges that are getting a windfall here. That is not a fact. I have tried to find out how many judges were involved, would be involved in this, and I understand it's relatively a few. Where all this came from, I don't know. I'm merely here to say to you that I respect the Congress rights to legislate. Lord knows, I have been in it enough.
I have great respect for the Congress and the confidence that Congress will do what is right. It might not be so all the time, but we try as 'has been my experience over all these years, we try. And I therefore, respect the right and whatever the Congress does, I will respect that. And I will in this instance, save and except one thing. I must say in all candor that I do not believe the Congress has the right to intrude upon a vested right of any member, I don't care whether it's a Mem
ber of Congress or whether it's somebody that works for the Congress, or whether it's anybody else in this system of ours.
Finally, I'd like to say this. I have in my experience, been called upon by the Judicial Conference and the Chief Justice to serve in many capacities since I have been out these 10 years. I served on the Judicial Conference for the period of time 3 years, and the Chief Justice has called upon me many times, because of my experience.
I say this to you, as an example, members of this committee, that the experience you attain here in the Congress of the United States is invaluable to you if you become a judge. It's invaluable to you if you become a lobbyist. It's invaluable to you if you go back home. People in all categories of life go back and get jobs in other capacities, as Judge Thornberry has said, and out of that experience they earn much more than you and I. And, therefore, I do not believe that it would be in the best interest of obtaining legislation of this kind that would be applicable to judges only and in the manner of making the judges the scapegoat. I say this in all due respect. I do not believe this committee or any other committee of the Congress wants to penalize a member because he makes a decision to go some other place and serve.
I should not have been appointed judge, very frankly, because I was past the age. I was past the age of 62. The American Bar committee only approved my appointment as judge because I served for 10 years as chairman of the Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce and they decided that out of the long years of my experience, I could do a lot better as a judge than someone who had never had such service. And I say, Mr. Chairman and members of this committee, in all due respect, whatever brought this bill on, I would hope the Congress would not take this kind of action against the judiciary when there are opportunities in all modes and methods of life for people to pursue, and successfully so, and, therefore, having experience in life, without any kind of recriminations that might happen against you.
I really do urge that you give most serious consideration to this matter before you which is applicable only to judges.
Again, may I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for this splendid opportunity of coming before you and taking a few moments of your time and expressing to you not only my personal experience, but my own feeling and hope that if anything is done at all—and I hope there will not be, but if, in your wisdom, it has to be--you would seriously consider it be prospective only, because we do not want to be put in the position of having to bring any kind of action against our Government to protect a right that we have attained.
Thank you very much.
There are a few things I would like to mention before we open it up to questions. Of course, what we're talking about today is a theory. Personally, if I had my preference, I think a person should have his retirement regardless, because I came out of the private sector as a practicing attorney for 15 years prior to coming to Congress. But that isn't the law, normally. For example, when a person is reemployed, the salary that a person receives on reemployment is offset by his retirement pay. When a person receives veterans' benefits, then there's a change in the social security benefits; there's an offset, as you well