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Newsletter of the Federal Courts

Vol. 42 Number 5 May 2010


The Evolving Court Library


hen is a library not the traditional book-lined library you grew up with? When its volumes are on-line and users email librarians for information from their laptops. Although legal tomes and treatises are still available on the shelves of federal circuit libraries nationwide, today’s libraries are becoming less repositories for books and more about knowledge management.

“Our libraries are on the cusp of change,” said Ann Fessenden, circuit librarian for the Eighth Circuit. With the federal courts since 1984, Fessenden has seen the court library begin its evolution from stacks to the Internet. Currently in the federal Judiciary there are 12 circuit libraries and approximately 100 satellite or branch libraries. According to Eric Wade, chair of the Circuit

Judiciary Launches New Website


ou’ll notice that this month the print edition of The Third Branch newsletter has a new, updated look. The biggest change, however, is on-line where the Judiciary’s website, www., has been completely revamped, reordered, and refreshed. Even more information about all aspects of the federal court system­is now easier to find. The new look and feel of the website owes a great deal to suggestions and comments from a wide range of users and focus groups, who were surveyed for their web preferences, their use of See Website on page 9

See Library on page 2

Federal Probation and Pretrial Services System: Reshaping Lives, Protecting Society


hey are the eyes and ears of the federal courts—the more than 5,000 men and women who help protect communities while they work to reshape lives gone criminally awry. Today’s federal probation and pretrial services officers are better equipped, better educated, and busier than ever before. They also face greater challenges. In 1988, just over 25 percent of the offenders under probation officers’ supervision had served time in prison; by 2009, ex-convicts accounted for 81 percent of offenders under supervision. Pretrial services officers, too, supervise a more dangerous class of defendants, far more likely to face charges See In-depth on page 4

INSIDE PACER Satisfaction 3 Magistrate Judges in the District Courts.............. pg. 10 Where the Money 11

The Evolving Court Library continued from page 1

Librarians Advisory Group, libraries, which also may be open to the public and the bar, typically serve 10 or more judges, although over one-third of the libraries serve twice that number or more.

The Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management is currently conducting a study of circuit libraries to determine how a significant reduction in law book funding in FY 2012 and beyond would impact court libraries and library services. The study began with a nationwide survey of all legal researchers, according to Committee member Judge Julio Fuentes (3rd Cir.), chair of CACM’s Library Subcommittee. “We’re always looking for ways to work more effectively and cut costs,” said Fuentes. “We hope the review will educate many about the services provided by librarians and point out avenues we can pursue to realize cost savings and focus resources in times of limited budgets.” The study will show what librarians have already done to restrain costs, and how they have evolved in the face of tighter funding and changing demands. The study report will go to the CACM Committee in June. “Law firm libraries have been shrinking for several years,” Fessenden said, “because space is expensive. Likewise, in federal courthouses, the U.S. Courts 2

The Third Branch n May 2010

Design Guide has reduced library space.” Meanwhile, inflation in fiscal years 1999-2009 pushed the average cost of legal subscriptions up more than 70 percent, while budgets for law books increased less than 6 percent. Faced with tight funding and higher than average inflation for law books, librarians have cut millions of dollars in subscriptions out of chambers and libraries, according to Fessenden. And it’s no surprise that on-line databases are becoming popular. “We’re moving beyond your traditional library,” said Luis Lopez, circuit librarian for the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. With Fessenden, he also is a member of the Circuit Librarians Advisory Group. “In some cases, we’re becoming a virtual library. In others it’s a combination of traditional library and on-line. We’re seeing a push towards virtualization and digitalization.” “But the truth is,” Fessenden cautions, “much of the material used in legal research is still better in print, and many judges definitely still want law books in chambers.” Judges may want their books near to hand, but they also may have an e-reader. In Fessenden’s circuit, judges read legal briefs on a popular e-reader. Lopez also is seeing the shift. “I have some judges purchasing e-readers and asking when the library will purchase titles they can download. They’re looking to the day they can go home or away to a conference and have their library with them on the e-reader.” More often, too, the requests for titles, information, and research, aren’t coming from walk-ins. “That’s certainly changed,” said Fessenden. “We used to have lots of foot traffic. But if you thought that meant libraries were used less, you’d have the wrong impression. People use the library service even if they don’t go to the library. Now we go on-line, and searches that once took weeks can get done in hours.”

Fessenden likes a bumper sticker that says, “Librarians, the Ultimate Search Engine.” “Everyone looks on-line, and their first inclination if they don’t find what they’re looking for in WestLaw or Lexis is to Google it, which doesn’t always get the best results. We help them learn what works. We know how to do a more authoritative search with the best on-line sources. When people get stuck in a search, they usually don’t have a Plan B. Librarians always have a Plan B, C, and D.” Fessenden bemoans the research skills taught in law schools. Typically, library research is lumped in with a legal writing class. As a result, according to Fessenden, “Many law clerks are less well-prepared to do research.” For both Lopez and Fessenden, the bottom line is providing answers and service when judges and their law clerks have questions.

“Much of the material used in legal research is still better in print, and many judges definitely still want law books in chambers.” “Sometimes the data is in a traditional print form that may only be in a court library and sometimes it’s on the Internet, and sometimes it doesn’t exist at all and we’ve got to find ways to pull it all together from various sources,” said Lopez. “We network by nature, and we have sources that are not on-line,” Fessenden adds. “We know how to find reliable sources, so it’s worthwhile to call or email your librarian. We can get what you need.” And sometimes a librarian also brings a needed perspective on technology. “I’m not here to develop your IT systems,” says Lopez. “But I am an See Library on page 9

Preliminary Findings: Satisfaction High Among PACER Users


n overwhelming majority of users of the federal Judiciary’s Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system is satisfied with it, according to a survey conducted for the Administrative Office by a private consulting firm. The on-line satisfaction survey was made available to all 325,000 active PACER users in late 2009, and 86 percent of users who completed it said they were satisfied. PACER is an electronic public access service that allows users to obtain case information from federal courts over the Internet. PACER provides access to 30 million cases and more than 500 million documents in federal appellate, district, and bankruptcy courts. Since the early 1990s, more than one million PACER accounts have been registered. (To learn more about the PACER system, go to The survey, conducted by an independent consulting group, is part of a comprehensive research effort using qualitative and quantitative research techniques. The effort, which will be completed later this year, will result in recommendations to be used to identify and prioritize key areas for making service improvements and, ultimately, increasing user satisfaction. In a related survey, some 3,055 PACER users—a statistically significant 22 percent of the 15,200 account holders contacted in mid-December 2009—gave PACER high grades, overall a satisfaction rate of 4 out of 5. User types giving the highest overall satisfaction scores to PACER include creditors and service providers to the legal sector, followed by commercial businesses. Users in the legal sector and litigants—the two largest groups of PACER users—are also among the most satisfied. Users at educational and research institutions gave the lowest overall satisfaction rating. These are less-frequent users.

Overall Satisfaction with PACER by Frequency of Use (3.055 Respondents) In the past 12 months, how often have you used PACER?

Average Satisfaction Rating

Satisfied (4 or 5)

Neither Satisfied nor Dissatisfied (3)

Dissatisfied (1 or 2)
















Once Every 2 to 3









Months 1 to 2 Times a Year

Overall Satisfaction with PACER (3,055 Respondents) PACER Arena Scored on a satisfaction scale ranging from 1 (very dissatisfied) to 5 (very satisfied)

Average Satisfaction Rating

Satisfied (4 or 5)

Neither Satisfied nor Dissatisfied (3)

Dissatisfied (1 or 2)






PACER’s System Access

















and Reliability Managing Your PACER Account Payments (asked only of those who manage their own account payments) Search and Obtaining Information from PACER Getting Help with PACER

The survey indicated that satisfaction rates climb steadily as frequency of use increases. Another finding: There is no significant difference in satisfaction with PACER between those respondents who use both PACER and the Judiciary’s Case Management/Electronic Case Files system and those who use PACER only. Respondents who reported being aware of the PACER Service Center (PSC)

as a source of help are significantly more satisfied with PACER than those who were not aware of the PSC when completing the survey. In focus group interviews with 234 PACER users, conducted between August and October of 2009, the service’s strengths were identified as being more cost-effective, faster, and more efficient See PACER on page 7 The Third Branch n May 2010


in-DEPTH Federal Probation and Pretrial Services System: Reshaping Lives, Protecting Society continued from page 1

involving illegal drugs and violence than white-collar crime. “The average offender and defendant risk level has been rising steadily for years, and officers must set priorities to ensure they are giving more attention to higherrisk offenders and defendants,” said John Hughes, assistant director for Probation and Pretrial Services in the Administrative Office. “Most offenders return to the environment in which they committed their crime, and many lack social support, and many have to deal with longstanding substance-abuse problems. It falls to the officer to tailor plans that reduce the risk to the community and increase the chances for successful outcomes.” The federal system’s success rate is impressive. Data from a variety of studies, including those by the U.S. Sentencing Commission and the Bureau of Justice Statistics, show that about 12 percent of federal offenders are arrested for committing a new serious crime during their first year of supervision; 22 percent during their second year. In state court systems, the first-year recidivism rate is about 44 percent, and 59 percent in the second year. “I think that the federal probation system may be the best community corrections organization there is anywhere,” said Chief Judge Julie Carnes of the Northern District of Georgia, who chairs the Criminal Law Committee of the Judicial Conference. “Typically, the federal system recruits from state and local systems, and takes only the cream of the crop with years of experience already,” she said. “Once they come on board, continued professional 4

The Third Branch n May 2010

New officers receive classroom instruction at the U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services Training Academy in Charleston, South Carolina.

development is fostered by the training and support available to them from the Federal Judicial Center, Administrative Office, and U.S. Sentencing Commission. Beyond that, the officers themselves are incredibly organized nationwide, and participate in numerous advisory groups that allow districts to share information and techniques with each other.” The economies of pretrial and post-conviction supervised release are well documented. It cost taxpayers $27,251.50 to keep one person in a federal Bureau of Prisons facility for the entire fiscal year 2009; but just $3,807.78 for each person under probation supervision. And while pretrial detention cost $24,743.62 per defendant in FY 2009, the per-defendant cost of pretrial supervised release was $2,328.05. On September 30, 2009, the number of men and women under federal postconviction supervision was a record high 124,183, up nearly 3 percent from those under supervision a year earlier. The number of persons under post-conviction supervision has grown by 10 percent since 2005, and the number of those

being supervised after a stay in prison has increased nearly 20 percent during that period. Nearly half of the 124,183 had been convicted of drug offenses. The number of cases opened in the federal pretrial services system continued its steady climb in 2009, up nearly 6 percent to 105,294. Pretrial services officers prepared more than 100,000 reports that year, helping judges decide whether to release or detain defendants, and what release conditions were appropriate to ensure that defendants met future court commitments and would not endanger the community.

Today’s Officers As a group, federal probation and pretrial services officers are very experienced and well-educated. A survey conducted in 2009 found that 79 percent of all officers have at least six years on the job, and more than half hold advanced degrees. Nearly 900 officers reported that they speak a foreign language, predominately Spanish. In the five Southwest border judicial districts—the Districts of Arizona and New Mexico, the Southern District of California,

and the Southern and Western Districts of Texas—the percentage of responding officers who speak Spanish was 60 percent. As employees of the federal Judiciary’s 94 district courts, probation and pretrial services officers both investigate and supervise persons charged with, or convicted of, federal crimes. Before defendants stand trial, officers recommend whether to release or detain them, and recommend what conditions a judge should impose if a defendant is released. Defendants who are convicted or plead guilty become the subjects of presentence reports, in which officers recommend sentencing options under federal guidelines. Presentence reports also assess the crime’s impact on victims, and the offender’s ability to pay fines and restitution. The reports recommend release conditions to help structure the offender’s movement and behavior in the community, whether or not time in prison is part of the punishment. They also recommend treatment to address individual needs, such as substance abuse help. Once offenders receive supervised release, probation officers make sure they comply with the courtordered conditions of their release and work with the offenders to improve their likelihood of success in the community. They keep track of offenders through in-person contacts at their homes or jobs, telephone calls, and even electronic monitoring. On the job, today’s probation and pretrial services officers are equipped with a variety of technological tools to make them more mobile and selfsufficient. Officers can employ three types of technology—radio frequency, global positioning systems (GPS), or voice recognition—to monitor the location of the defendants and offenders they supervise. Their personal digital assistants (PDAs) allow them, among other things, to track case-related information, enter field visit

Cost of Incarceration vs. Cost of Supervision (FY 2009) Daily



BOP Facility




Probation Supervision




Pretrial Supervised Release




Pretrial Detention




notes, and exchange information with fellow officers. “It’s already a successful program because it allows information to be shared… to determine if offenders are doing what they were directed by the court to do,” said Judge Rosemary Collyer, chair of the Judicial Conference Committee on Information Technology. One of the recent technological tools available to probation officers is a web-based system that gives them ready access to offenders’ fine, restitution, and special assessment data. The Offender Payment Enhanced Report Access system allows officers to “easily access information about payments made by offenders while under supervision,” said Don Martenz, a probation officer in the District of New Jersey who helped develop the system. Other popular resources for officers are available through the Probation and Pretrial Services Automated Cases Tracking System (PACTS), a caseload management system used in all 94 federal judicial districts. “I do not know how I did this job before we started using the current technology,” said Donna High, a probation officer in the Northern District of Georgia. “From my laptop, to PACTS Mobile on the Blackberry device, GPS, and the wealth of programs that are incorporated into our PACTS database, I can more effectively and efficiently manage my time and my cases… The technology has allowed me to become untethered from a file cabinet and have full access to the entire content of my

case files from alternate locations.” Officers must use the investigative skills of law enforcement, along with the treatment and service-delivery skills of social workers. As a result, they need a special kind of training. Since 2005, much of that training takes place in a judicial branch enclave at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Charleston, S.C. In fiscal year 2009, the U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services Training Academy trained 704 officers in 33 separate classes. The academy’s six-week training program for new officers provides in-depth, hands-on instructions in the core responsibilities of pretrial services investigations, presentence reports, and various supervision responsibilities. Officers are trained in defensive tactics, firearms, and non-emergency driving, along with specialized classes on mental health, sex offenders, domestic violence, location monitoring, officer ethics, and legal liability. “Our training is critical. All of us are on hazardous duty. We face a lot of unknowns with every visit to an offender’s home or place of work—not necessarily from the offender, but from others,” said Kurt Panzer, a probation officer in the District of Columbia. “When it comes to our work, we say that one of the most important things to do is to go home safe each day.” Melissa Anderson, a probation officer in the District of South Carolina, notes that officers “sometimes must deal with domestic-violence issues, and are alone when making unannounced visits to an offender’s home.” See In-depth on page 6 The Third Branch n May 2010


in-DEPTH Federal Probation and Pretrial Services System: Reshaping Lives, Protecting Society

in the community, let alone their friends and family.” The Administrative Office, which staffs the training academy on the FLETC facility, maintains an on-site presence.

continued from page 5

Working to Change Lives

Mike McFarland, a senior pretrial services officer in the District of Oregon, also cites home visits as the riskiest part of his duties. “Obviously, the majority of our community contacts are without incident, but it is the unknown element of what perhaps is going on behind that front door before we knock,” he said. “How many unknown third parties are present, and what are their individual agendas? Has there just been an argument preceding the contact? Is there someone present who is intoxicated or under the influence of a controlled substance, or perhaps suicidal?” He added: “Our deputy marshals comment that they can’t believe we do home visits on our clients. They have seen these same individuals when arrests have been made, and know that the persons presenting themselves in the office, a more controlled environment, are not the same persons who we find

“The goal of our probation program since it was established 85 years ago has been and continues to be providing offenders sentenced by a judge to a period of a probation officer’s supervision with the tools they need to become productive, law-abiding citizens,” Judge Julia Gibbons of the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit recently told a congressional appropriations subcommittee. She chairs the Judicial Conference Committee on the Budget. “While compliance with conditions remains a major component of supervision, working with the offender to change his behavior will provide the best long-term value to the community,” she said. How can individuals with “criminogenic needs”—deficits in their emotional condition or behavior that may contribute to criminal behavior—be helped? Officers work to identify what traits an offender may possess in order to assess which services may work best to

Milestones in Probation and Pretrial Services History



President Calvin Coolidge signs the Probation Act of 1925, establishing probation as a sentence in federal courts.


The first federal probation officer is appointed.


Judicial Conference of the United States forms a permanent committee to address probation system issues.


Pretrial services offices are established as an experiment in 10 judicial districts.


President Ronald Reagan signs the Pretrial Services Act, which authorizes expansion of pretrial services to each district court.


The Bail Reform Act allows judges to consider danger to the community as a factor in deciding whether to release or detain criminal defendants awaiting trial.


Federal courts first use home confinement.


A national training academy for new officers is established at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Charleston, S.C.

The Third Branch n May 2010

A variety of technological tools, including an automated case-tracking system available on portable, hand-held devices, makes the Judiciary’s officers more mobile and self-sufficient.

mitigate the risk of recidivism. The four leading factors that contribute to recidivism are antisocial thinking patterns and values, a dysfunctional social network, lack of productive employment or education, and substance abuse. “An officer must make the appropriate referrals in response to an offender’s needs, whether it be cognitive behavior therapy, mental health treatment, drug treatment, employment assistance or training, parenting skills, or whatever the issue may be,” Anderson, the South Carolina probation officer, said. “An officer must assess critical needs and work on them one or two at a time.” One key to success in combating recidivism is to have much of the support structure in place before an offender’s release to supervision. Research indicates, too, that an offender’s smooth transition from prison back to the community is critical for a community’s protection. Probation offices work closely with the federal Bureau of Prisons to build and enhance support systems. “Each offender needs something different in trying to turn around his or her life,” said Chris Hopper, a probation officer in the Northern District of Iowa. “It could be

Preliminary Findings: Satisfaction High Among PACER Users

Federal Probation System

continued from page 3

Persons Under Post-Conviction Supervision

140,000 120,000 100,000 80,000 60,000 40,000 20,000 0











As of September 30

changing who they hang out with, or getting a job, or moving forward with education.” Some federal probation offices have had success with Defendant/Offender Workforce Development—helping prepare ex-offenders for the 9-to-5 world and convincing business people to hire them. “Meaningful employment is a key,” probation officer Panzer said. “If they have a job, they can hit the ground running. If they’re idle, they may pretty quickly fall back into bad patterns.” Hard economic times in many communities, however, have affected workforce development efforts. Another key in an era of limited resources is focusing on programs that have proven results. The federal Judiciary has undertaken an initiative—evidencebased practices (EBP)—that relies on data from law enforcement, correctional, and other community agencies, as well as the Judiciary’s own case management data, to identify what will maximize the effect probation officers have on offenders’ behavior. EBP is a considerable undertaking. “We have developed an automated system

to gather and interpret criminal records from all 50 states to track recidivism for all persons currently and formerly under supervision of a probation officer,” Gibbons said. “We have also developed an assessment tool based on an analysis of more than 100,000 offender case files to help officers decide exactly how to approach each person. We believe the evidence-based approach to offender reentry and our strong focus on achieving positive outcomes will reduce the high costs associated with recidivism.” Carnes agrees. “Our officers are dedicated both to protecting the community and to motivating offenders to change their criminal behavior. When we succeed at the latter, we necessarily accomplish the former,” she said. “For that reason, the federal probation system is committed to an outcome-based approach, because experience has taught us that this approach provides the best results. We will continue to study and develop those techniques that have been shown, empirically, to most improve an offender’s chance for success.”

than previous methods of accessing federal case information; the convenience of anytime remote availability; and reliable and straightforward system access. The overwhelming majority of users view PACER as a good value and the authoritative source for obtaining federal court records. It should be noted that about 50 percent of PACER users did not receive a bill in 2009, as a result of fee exemptions and waivers. “I can get court papers from all around the U.S. easily, quickly, and inexpensively,” said one respondent. Another said, “I appreciate having a central location to access federal court information.” And still another offered this praise: “I use PACER almost every day and seldom have a problem with it. PACER provides me with a wealth of information almost instantaneously.” Opportunities for improvement included an expanded search functionality, with more options and flexibility, and an ability to narrow searches. Also mentioned was more streamlined navigation, with fewer clicks and “fewer pages to sort through.” Results also indicate that communications with PACER users about new features, as well as more efficient ways to use current features, would increase user satisfaction. “I would like the query and case sections to have more options for the search. Being able to set a time period would be of great help in managing files,” one respondent said. Another said, “At times, it is difficult to get into the system, and the descriptions down the left-hand side are not very user-friendly.” During fiscal year 2009, usage statistics show that 52 percent of PACER use focused on bankruptcy courts; 40 percent on district courts; 5 percent mixed; and 2 percent on appellate courts. The Third Branch n May 2010


May Judicial Milestones Appointed: U.S. District Judge Denny Chin, as U.S. Court of Appeals Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second

Appointed: Jerome T. Kearney, as U.S.

Circuit, April 26.

Magistrate Judge, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, April 17.

Appointed: O. Rogeriee Thompson,

Appointed: Sheila K. Oberto, as U.S.

as U.S. Court of Appeals Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, April 1.

Magistrate Judge, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, April 12.

Appointed: Mildred Caban, as U.S.

Appointed: Michael J. Seng, as U.S. Magistrate Judge, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, April 19.

Bankruptcy Judge, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Puerto Rico, March 17. Appointed: Magdeline D. Coleman,

as U.S. Bankruptcy Judge, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, April 12. Appointed: Melvin S. Hoffman,

as U.S. Bankruptcy Judge, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts, April 16. Appointed: Margaret M. Mann, as U.S.

Bankruptcy Judge, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of California, April 2. Appointed: Shelley D. Rucker, as U.S.

Elevated: U.S. Court of Appeals Judge William J. Riley to Chief Judge, U.S.

Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, succeeding U.S. Court of Appeals Judge James B. Loken, April 2. Senior Status: U.S. District Judge Henry Lee Adams, Jr., U.S. District Court for

the Middle District of Florida, April 8. Senior Status: U.S. District Judge Barbara B. Crabb, U.S. District Court

for the Western District of Wisconsin, March 24. Retired: U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Joel B. Rosenthal, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for

Bankruptcy Judge, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, April 2.

the District of Massachusetts.

Appointed: Vijay C. Gandhi, as U.S.

for the Northern District of Ohio, February 28.

Magistrate Judge, U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, April 14. Appointed: Shiva V. Hodges, as U.S.

Magistrate Judge, U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, April 1.

Retired: U.S. Magistrate Judge Vernelis K. Armstrong, U.S. District Court

Retired: U.S. Magistrate Judge Henry Jones, Jr., U.S. District Court for the

The Third Branch n May 2010

Visit our Internet site at DIRECTOR James C. Duff EDITOR-IN-CHIEF David A. Sellers MANAGING EDITOR Karen E. Redmond PRODUCTION OmniStudio, Inc. CONTRIBUTOR Dick Carelli, AO

Please direct all inquiries and address changes to The Third Branch at the above address or to

JUDICIAL BOXSCORE As of May 1, 2010 Courts of Appeals Vacancies............................................ 27 Nominees........................................... 11 District Courts Vacancies............................................ 84 Nominees........................................... 27 Courts with “Judicial Emergencies”..................... 40

Eastern District of Arkansas, April 16. Deceased: U.S. Senior District Judge Franklin D. Burgess, U.S. District

Court for the Western District of Washington, March 26.


Published monthly by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts Office of Public Affairs One Columbus Circle, N.E. Washington, D.C. 20544 (202) 502-2600

Up-to-date information on judicial vacancies is available at

The Evolving Court Library continued from page 2

applications specialist. I know how our judges work, so I know what technology would be of value to them.” That expertise extends to social media. “Librarians keep up on the technology,” said Fessenden. “A lot of libraries have Facebook pages or they’re Tweeting. We can send out news alerts on new cases, or articles about the court in the media.” She adds that searches also can be set up for threats against judges. “As librarians, we’re well-positioned to educate court staff and judges about

Judiciary Launches New Website continued from page 1

the Judiciary’s website, and the on-line information that interests them most. You asked for it, we designed it. Here’s what you’ll now be able to do on nn New Look—More Than

Homepage Deep Content on the Judiciary’s new website is easier to find, thanks to an enhanced information architecture based on user needs and navigation tools that point the way. Users will be able to move smoothly through pages and sections to find the information they need. nn More Multimedia Choices

We’ve expanded the use of multimedia on to include videos, podcasts, and photo slideshows. Check out the latest news and features in the format that works for you. nn Watch, Learn, and Comment

on YouTube We’re also jointly launching with the Federal Judicial Center the Federal Judiciary Channel on YouTube, with video news and information

“As librarians, we’re well-positioned to educate court staff and judges about social media.” social media,” said Lopez, “and also to help judges monitor, for security reasons, the information that’s out there on-line about them. We can set up alerts, set up searches so they receive a report on what’s in the media.” What’s on the horizon for the evolving court library? Lopez sees less print, more

from around the Judiciary. Watch and comment on everything from bankruptcy how-to’s, to profiles on careers with the Judiciary.

on-line resources, although he doesn’t see that changing overnight. “Five years from now, I see you coming into the library with an e-reader and asking for, say, any handbooks on medical devices and the law. I take my device, sync it to your reader, and now I’ve loaned you five titles. Right now, the current e-book market isn’t ready for virtual library deployment, but it’s a new market and evolving, and we’ll be watching it.” “What we do to help people won’t change, although we may be able to do it faster and better,” says Fessenden. “Our role is still there, just the format changes.”

Application and Review (OSCAR) used to be just for law clerks. Now it’s branching out to include staff attorneys. The webpage at https://oscar.uscourts. gov/ complements the’s new design.

nn Share the News

Share information, articles, videos, news, and all the content you like. Social Bookmark a page with a click, then click on the “share” icon to send content to Facebook,, Digg, and other social networking sites. nn Automatically Update

Add our content to your website. Widgets automatically keep your site visitors up-to-date with Judiciary news and views. nn Easy Access to PACER

It’s a new design for the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) webpage too, prompted by a comprehensive reassessment of the Electronic Public Access program. Look for improved site navigation and easy access to services at nn More Openings at OSCAR

The On-line System for Clerkship

nn Information You Want, the Way

You Want It. You pick the delivery mode. Get updates on Judiciary news, publications, and statistics, as well as videos delivered directly to you via email, cell phone, or PDA. Download and listen to podcasts at your convenience. nn See It, Hear It

Hear it here. Download a small plug-in program, select text with your cursor, and hear it read aloud. The Browse-Aloud Service is designed for anyone who finds it difficult to read on-line. Material from the site also can be downloaded and listened to at your convenience. nn Tell Us About It

We’re a work in progress and we want to hear what you think. Comments? Quibbles? Kudos? Please feel free to send them to: The Third Branch n May 2010


“Free to Experiment”: The Use of Magistrate Judges in the District Courts


hen Congress amended the Federal Magistrates Act in 1976, the Senate report used some fairly surprising language for a piece of legislation—words such as “experimentation” and “innovative.” The district courts were urged to, within limits, be inventive when it came to the use of magistrate judges. They were encouraged to “remain free to experiment in the assignment of other duties to magistrates.” Have the federal courts followed that recommendation? “The position of magistrate judge is living up to Congress’ intent to be forward-thinking,” said Judge George King, in the Central District of California, and chair of the Judicial Conference Committee on the Administration of the Magistrate Judges System. “Congress had the foresight not to impose a one-sizefits-all magistrate judges’ system on the courts. We’ve been allowed to experiment and adapt the position to localized needs. Different courts have different needs. In

“Additional Duties” of Magistrate Judges Some of the “other duties” performed by magistrate judges include:

• Settlement conferences in civil cases • Felony guilty plea proceedings • Grand Jury proceedings • Material witness hearings • IRS enforcement proceedings • Markman hearings • Mental competency proceedings • Duties involving juries in civil and criminal trials

• Judgment debtor proceedings • Naturalization proceedings 10

The Third Branch n May 2010

my district, magistrate judges function more like appeals judges, to the extent their work involves lots of writing and review of cases from other courts and agencies. In a border court, magistrate judges might act more like trial judges, handling guilty pleas and trying misdemeanors cases. Wherever they are, they play important roles in their court.” Back in 1968, many newly minted U.S. magistrate judges were former U.S. commissioners, whose duties then included issuing warrants, establishing bail, and trying petty offense cases. With the 1968 Federal Magistrates Act, courts were permitted to assign to magistrate judges “such additional duties as are not inconsistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States” that “may include, but are not restricted to” service as a special master, assistance in pretrial proceedings in civil and criminal cases, and review of prisoner petitions for submission of reports and recommendations to district judges. The 1976 amendments clarified and broadened the “additional duties” that may be assigned to magistrate judges. “The role of magistrate judges has evolved in a number of ways,” said Judge Dennis Cavanaugh, former chair of the Judicial Conference Committee on the Administration of the Magistrate Judges System. “In addition to the direct effect of legislation enhancing and clarifying the scope of magistrate judges’ authority, the federal courts have responded to the overall growth in caseload by using magistrate judges to meet the particular demands of their changing caseloads.” Like King, Cavanaugh has direct experience of that evolution. Both were magistrate judges before being confirmed as district court judges. The “most innovative and expansive authority given to magistrate judges since

the birth of the system,” according to a recent report to the Judicial Conference Magistrate Judges Committee, was the conferral in 1979, by statute, of the plenary power to try civil cases and enter judgment on consent of the parties. All district courts have elected to allow magistrate judges to exercise that authority. Successful innovations tend to “spread” from one court to another. Some onceinnovative duties that are now common duties for magistrate judges in many courts are the disposition of discovery motions in civil cases, and settlement conferences in civil cases. In recent years, according to Cavanaugh, many courts have assigned an increasing number of felony guilty plea proceedings to magistrate judges. In his New Jersey court, magistrate judges conduct settlement conferences, at which, he says, they’ve become very effective. “Our district court has a lot of sophisticated intellectual property cases,” said Cavanaugh. “Our magistrate judges take care of the day-to-day problems that leave us free to handle these complicated trials. I couldn’t imagine working without them.” The use of magistrate judges in settlement conferences also has grown tremendously in the Central District of California. “Our magistrate judges are the best settlement officers in the area,” said King. A year ago, the district began a pilot program placing magistrate judges on the civil case assignment wheel on a limited basis. The assigned magistrate judge acts as the provisional presiding judge, “subject to the parties’ subsequent consent to that judge’s plenary authority or declination of consent.” Two innovative programs involving magistrate judges that have been

Where the Money Goes


early all—95 percent—of the Judiciary’s 2010 annual appropriations goes directly to the courts of appeals, the district courts, and other judicial services in the following accounts: Salaries and Expenses, (which includes rent, judges and court personnel salaries, operating expenses, information technology and other uncontrollable costs), Defender Services, Court Security, Fees for Jurors, and other Judiciary Accounts.

Matters Disposed of by Magistrate Judges In Thousands

Growth in Magistrate Judge Duties 1993/2003–2009 30 25 20 15 10

n 1993 n 2000 n 2009

5 0

Settlement Conferences

Felony Guilty Pleas

NOTE: 1993 and 2000 were the first two years statistics for settlement conferences and felony guilty pleas were available.

Growth in Magistrate Judge Duties 1989–2009 Matters Disposed of by Magistrate Judges In Thousands

implemented or are in the planning stages in districts around the country are re-entry programs for convicted criminal defendants on federal supervision, and programs for judge-conducted settlement conferences in prisoner cases. “When prisoner civil rights cases go to trial, the logistics and security are difficult,” King said. “When both the prisoner and the prison are interested in a settlement conference, that presents an occasion for an innovative use of a magistrate judge.” Both King and Cavanaugh agree that flexibility is a hallmark of the magistrate judges system. “There is no ideal or specific model for magistrate judge utilization,” said Cavanaugh, “but from the earliest days, magistrate judges have been recognized as valuable resources in civil as well as criminal cases.” “This is a position with lots of opportunities for the judge to assist in the work of, and to solve challenges faced by the district courts,” adds King. “A magistrate judge can help the overall machinery of the Judiciary work better and run smoother. I think the majority of districts are doing a fine job of utilizing their magistrate judges to the fullest.”

180 160 140 120 100 80 60 40 20 0

Civil Consent Cases

Civil Pretrail Motions

Criminal Pretrail Motions

n 1989 n 2009

Where the Money Goes

Salaries and Expenses


Defender Services


Court Security


Fees for Jurors


Other Judiciary Accounts


The Third Branch n May 2010




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Judicial Education and History Center Dedicated


he U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri dedicated its new Judicial Education and History Center in the Rush Hudson Limbaugh Sr. U.S. Courthouse in Cape Girardeau on April 30. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Representative Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) spoke at the event, which included a naturalization ceremony for 14 new U.S. citizens. According to Clerk of Court James Woodward, the center will showcase the history and function of the federal courts in the Eastern District of Missouri, and also tell the story of Rush Limbaugh Sr., who practiced law in Missouri for nearly 80 years. His grandson, Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh Jr., is the first federal judge to work full-time in the Cape Girardeau courthouse.

U.S. District Judge Henry Autrey, Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson, U.S. District Judge Stephen Limbaugh Jr., Senator Claire McCaskill, Chief U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry, and U.S. District Judge Rodney Sippel in the Eastern District of Missouri’s new Judicial Education and History Center, Cape Girardeau.

2010-05 May - The Third Branch  
2010-05 May - The Third Branch  

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