Laurence Silberman

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Laurence Silberman
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Current Court Information:
United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
Title:   Senior judge
Position:   43
Station:   D.C.
Appointed by:   Ronald Reagan
Active:   10/28/1985 - 11/1/2000
Senior:   11/1/2000 - Present
Preceded by:   New Seat
Succeeded by:   Brett Kavanaugh
Personal History
Born:   1935
Hometown:   York, PA
Undergraduate:   Dartmouth '57
Law School:   Harvard Law '61

Laurence Hirsch Silberman is a federal judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He joined the court in 1985 after being nominated by President Ronald Reagan. He is serving on senior status.


Silberman graduated from Dartmouth with his bachelor's degree in 1957 and later graduated from Harvard Law with his LL.B degree in 1961.[1]

Professional career

  • U.S. Army Private, 1957-1958
  • Private practice, Honolulu, Hawaii, 1961-1967
  • Lecturer, University of Hawaii Law School, 1962-1963
  • Attorney, Appellate Division, National Labor Relations Board, Washington, DC, 1967-1969
  • Solicitor of Labor, U.S. Department of Labor, Washington, DC, 1969-1970
  • U.S. undersecretary of labor, Washington, DC, 1970-1973
  • Private practice, Washington, DC, 1973-1974, 1978-1979. 1983-1985
  • Deputy attorney general of the United States, 1974-1975
  • Ambassador to Yugoslavia, 1975-1977
  • President's special envoy on ILO Affairs, 1976
  • Senior fellow, American Enterprise Institute, 1977-1978
  • Visiting fellow, American Enterprise Institute, 1978-1985
  • Executive vice president of strategic planning, Legal and Government Affairs, Crocker National Bank, San Francisco, California, 1979-1983
  • Adjunct professor of law, Georgetown Law Center, 1987-present[1]

Judicial career

On the recommendation of the at-large Congressional delegation for the District of Columbia, Williams was nominated by President Ronald Reagan on September 11, 1985 to a new seat created by 98 Stat. 333 which was approved by Congress. Silberman was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on October 25, 1985 on a senate vote and received commission on October 28, 1985. Silberman assumed senior status on November 1, 2000.[1]

Judicial pay dispute

Judges go to court over salaries (2009-2013)

  United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
     *Peter H. Beer, et al., v. United States 09-CV-037
Judge Silberman was one of six judges who sued the government on a claim that Congress violated the Constitution's compensation clause and the Ethics Reform Act of 1989 by failing to honor promised judicial salary increases in five separate years. Earlier reports of the case indicated Judges Thomas Hogan and James Robertson were part of the suit, though they were not named parties in the final opinions and orders.[2]

The Ethics Reform Act requires automatic adjustment of judicial salaries every year based on the Employment Cost Index--which measures inflation of wages and benefits--unless severe economic conditions make the raise inappropriate. The U.S. Congress claimed its withholding of salary adjustments for federal judges were due to a lack of funds.[3]

On October 16, 2009, a federal claims court judge dismissed the lawsuit, citing a precedential decision titled Williams v. United States. It was held in that case that Congress could decide not to grant the cost of living adjustments so long as they did so in the fiscal year prior to that in which the increase would be payable. The judges expected and acknowledged the decision based on the precedent, but said that their hope was to overturn the Williams decision, and planned an immediate appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.[2]

On October 5, 2012, the Federal Circuit ruled in favor of the judges, overturning the 11-year old Williams precedent, and finding that Congress' withholding of the cost-of-living salary raises were illegal. The en banc opinion was written by Judge Randall Rader, who quoted Alexander Hamilton, saying, "next to permanency in office, nothing can contribute more to the independence of the judges than a fixed provision for their support."[3] The judges commented that members of their profession should not have to fear that their livelihood will be subject to reprisals from other branches of government, and that as the "weakest of the three branches of government," the judiciary "must...not place its will within the reach of political whim".[3]

The panel decided that "all sitting federal judges are entitled to expect that their real salary will not diminish due to inflation or the action or inaction of the other branches of government," and ordered the Court of Federal Claims to calculate the judges' damages and additional compensation they were entitled to.[3]

Judges Timothy Dyk and William Bryson dissented. They wrote that although the decision seemed just in consideration "to the nation's underpaid Article III judges," the overturning of the Supreme Court's clear interpretation of the law in Williams, as well as a previous refusal to re-hear the issue by the highest court, indicates that the majority overstepped its authority.[3]

In June of 2013, the judge Eric G. Bruggink ruled that each of the judges could recover about $150,000 of back-pay from the government. He also ordered the government to pay interest on the pre-tax amount of the judgment.[4]

Notable cases

Net neutrality struck down in landmark ruling (2014)

  United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
     *Verizon v. Federal Communications Commission 11-1355
On January 14, 2014, a divided three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit, comprised of Judges David Tatel, Judith Rogers, and Senior Judge Silberman, struck down net neutrality, the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) open-Internet rules. Tatel, writing for the majority, wrote that the government cannot force internet providers to treat all traffic equally. This case was spurred by the FCC's 2010 passage of the Open Internet Order (OIO), a document which set out rules designed to "preserve the Internet as an open platform enabling consumer choice, freedom of expression, end-user control, competition, and the freedom to innovate without permission." Verizon challenged those rules, arguing that the FCC lacked the regulatory authority to enforce them, and that they served as a violation of the company's First Amendment right to free speech. In the decision, Tatel, joined by Rogers, wrote that "even though the [FCC] has general authority to regulate in this arena, it may not impose requirements that contravene express statutory mandates," vacating the sections of the OIO which sought to regulate internet providers as "common carriers" (i.e., a company that provides services for "public convenience and necessity," without discrimination). Silberman concurred in part and dissented in part, writing that he believed the FCC lacked the statutory authority to issue the OIO in the first place.[5][6][7][8]

See also

External links


Federal judicial offices
Preceded by:
NA-new seat
Circuit Court of Appeals for D.C.
Succeeded by:
Brett Kavanaugh

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