Newsletter of the Federal Courts
A Second Chance for Veterans
A Judge Michael A. Ponsor (D. Mass.) testified that interruptions in the federal courthouse construction and renovation program have a “devastating impact” on the Judiciary’s ability to provide access to justice.
Participants in Judicial Process Entitled to Safe Facility with Adequate Space
he effective administration of justice is threatened when participants in the judicial process must use inadequate, deteriorating, and unsafe courtrooms, representatives of the federal Judiciary told Congress last month. “The lack of adequate and appropriate courtroom space adversely impacts the Judiciary’s ability to provide access to justice, to effectively administer justice, and to ensure the safety and security of all participants in the judicial process,” Judge Michael A. Ponsor (D. Mass.), chair of the Judicial Conference Committee on Space and Facilities, told the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts and Competition Policy. Subcommittee chair Hank Johnson (D-GA) and ranking minority member Howard Coble (R-NC) weighed in on the need for courthouses.
“I emphasize that the three branches [of government] are intended to be co-equal, separate branches. This balance of power is disrupted when the legislative branch intrudes on how the judicial branch conducts its business, such as dictating how much courtroom sharing there must be or how to calculate the number of judges needed to meet caseload demands,” said Johnson. He announced that he is planning to visit several courthouses “that the Judiciary believes to be in See Participants on page 2
INSIDE TIP Survey Shows Satisfaction..............pg. 4 Inventory System Finds National Support........................................................pg. 5
troubled Iraq war veteran is getting a second chance, thanks to a group of judges, defense attorneys, probation officers and federal prosecutors in the Western District of New York. The district is the first in the nation to link veterans’ pretrial diversion cases with the local Veterans Court. This war veteran served his country for nine years in the U.S. Army, with tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. But after allegedly assaulting a police officer and officials at the local Veterans Hospital and making threats, he faced a federal criminal complaint and a probable prison sentence. Instead, today he is See Second Chance on page 3
Caucus Brings Congress and Courts Together
n a rare example of bipartisanship, Representatives Judy Biggert (R-IL) and Adam Schiff (D-CA) formed the Congressional Caucus on the Judicial Branch. Why? What do they hope to accomplish? See our interview on page 10.
Participants in Judicial Process Entitled to Safe Facility with Adequate Space continued from page 1
desperate need of funding.” Johnson invited his fellow committee members on both the House Judiciary Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management to join him. Coble prefaced his remarks by saying he is a long-time advocate of less spending and lower taxes and that “nobody gets a blank check.” He added, however, that the Administrative Office “correctly notes, in my opinion, that it is difficult to predict the Judiciary’s courthouse needs when the size of the Judiciary is a function of congressional action or inaction. . . The Judiciary also maintains that the whole point of our courts is to dispense justice as expeditiously and as fairly as possible. How does,“ he asked, “a one-size-fits-all courtroom sharing plan further justice? How does it promote the quick resolution of legal disputes?”
“These decisions are not ones that lend themselves to an assembly line approach to justice where judges and litigants are interchangeable.” —Judge Michael A. Ponsor (D. Mass.)
Also testifying at the hearing were Mark Goldstein from the Government Accountability Office; Judith Resnik; the Arthur Liman Professor of Law, Yale Law School; and the General Services Administration’s Commissioner of Public Buildings, Robert A. Peck, who told the subcommittee “the courthouses GSA constructs are economic, sound, and prestigious, worthy of the American people they represent for years to come.” 2
The Third Branch n October 2010
Chief Judge Robert J. Conrad described the security and space deficiencies in his Charlotte, North Carolina courthouse.
Subcommittee chair Hank Johnson (D-GA) has expressed interest in visiting several federal courthouses.
“Decisions involving whether a new courthouse needs to be built, what the design of that courthouse should include, and how many courtrooms need to be provided must take into account the dynamic and unique nature of the judicial process,” Ponsor said. “These decisions are not ones that lend themselves to an assembly line approach to justice where judges and litigants are interchangeable.” The planning involved in building courthouses with sufficient space to house judges and staff only can be based on the best information that exists during the planning period, Ponsor told the subcommittee. “In determining what the Judiciary’s future space needs are, we must plan for adequate space to avoid building a courthouse that is too small to move into as soon as it is completed, and we must also plan for growth, including taking into account expected new judgeships,” he said. Chief Judge Robert J. Conrad, Jr., (W.D. NC) testified on the impact of too few courtrooms in his Charlotte, North Carolina, courthouse. The district has been on the Judiciary’s Five-Year Courthouse Project Plan for a new courthouse for almost 20 years, with construction set back by moratoriums and delays in funding. Given docket demands, the growth in the number of judges, and the seriousness and complexity of cases, the present courthouse now is out of space with serious consequences for security and for the judicial process.
“All of the participants in the judicial process are human beings—not widgets on a conveyor belt—who are entitled to gather in a dignified manner in a safe facility with adequate and appropriate space,” Conrad said. Instead, he described a courthouse designed in 1915 with postal needs in mind, rather than modern court security—where he has walked to chambers alongside an offender he had just sentenced to 20 years, and where he routinely encounters prisoners on the elevator. Numerous confrontations occur between families of defendants, attorneys and law-enforcement agents who meet in the corridors and restrooms. Because the courthouse lacks a sufficient number of courtrooms, they are frequently “double scheduled,” and the subsequent rescheduling of proceedings is inefficient and costly for the parties. According to Conrad, when criminal trials must be held in the smaller magistrate judge courtroom, jurors, parties, and counsel have difficulty seeing each other, victims and other witnesses testify within a few feet of criminal defendants, and defendants testify within arm’s reach of the judge. Ponsor told the subcommittee that interruptions in the courthouse construction and renovation program “will have a devastating impact on the Judiciary’s ability to provide access to justice and ensure its effective administration.” The courthouses most urgently in See Participants on page 5
A Second Chance for Veterans continued from page 1
receiving treatment and on his way to putting his life back on track. This veteran’s case was the first federal criminal case of its kind in the Western District of New York to be referred to the City of Buffalo Veterans Treatment Court as part of a pre-trial diversion agreement. Pretrial diversion has been part of the federal judicial system longer than 20-year veteran Chief Probation Officer Anthony San Giacomo has worked in probation. “It is an innovative way to handle a specialized problem,” San Giacomo said. “A percentage of our veterans are coming back with significant mental health, drug, and alcohol problems. In this case, as part of the diversion agreement, we supervise the defendant, but he is referred to Veterans Treatment Court where the presiding judge has experience in dealing with veterans. As I see it, we refer people out for drug and alcohol treatment. The Veterans Court is just another mode of treatment.” Last year in the federal system, there were 1,077 pretrial diversions. They are an alternative to prosecution of an individual, who instead is placed under the supervision of a pretrial services or probation officer. The offender enters into a contract with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, pledging to meet certain conditions. If the conditions are not met, the case may be prosecuted —a strong incentive to the defendant to abide by the agreement. “When the case started, the charges were potentially very serious,” said Magistrate Judge Jeremiah McCarthy (W.D. NY), who heard the original criminal complaint. “The young man was an Iraq war veteran and it was apparent from his demeanor that there was some kind of disconnect. I was sympathetic to his background and situation, but I had to be concerned about the risk to the public.”
“It took at least two months after he first appeared in court before the judge was satisfied he wasn’t a danger to himself or the community,” said Federal Defender Tracy Hayes. “During that time he had daily meetings with a therapist and a counselor. My office would check in daily to see how he was doing.” At the same time, Hayes was working with the district’s pretrial services officers to find a treatment program tailored towards veterans.
In fact, the Office of Probation and Pretrial Services in the Western District of New York had been working for months, in cooperation with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, on a pretrial diversion alternative just for veterans, an agreement that would include the Veterans Treatment Court. “We handle a fair number of cases involving veterans, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward White. “Shortly after the Veterans Court was established, we began exploring the possibility that, when appropriate, we could refer cases to the court.” It didn’t happen overnight. After working with the U.S. Attorneys Office, San Giacomo met with Buffalo City Court Judge Robert Russell, who heads the Veterans Treatment Court, to explain what the Office of Probation wanted to do. “Judge Russell was more than happy to help us,” said San Giacomo. “There was a meeting with our Chief Judge William M. Skretny where we went over
what the Veterans Treatment Court has to offer. We also talked to the Federal Defenders Office about jurisdiction and what they felt was fair.” Skretny was very supportive. “The Veterans’ Court program assists veterans in getting proper treatment, mentors who can help them, and assistance with any military benefits from Veterans Hospital,” said Skretny. “In addition, participants in the program must remain sober, lead a law-abiding life, and secure a stable job, vocational training or schooling.” A probation officer also closely supervises the case, even attending the participants’ appearances at the Veterans Treatment Court. “The federal charges have been dismissed without prejudice,” McCarthy adds, “so if he doesn’t comply with the conditions of the diversion agreement, they can be reinstated. We all hope that won’t happen, but he does realize that he’s not totally free and clear right now.” Referrals of veterans’ cases to the Veterans Treatment Court will depend upon individual circumstances and the defendant’s background. “We aren’t the Department of Convictions,” said White, “we’re the Department of Justice. Our highest goal is to make sure justice is done. We are sympathetic to the plight of veterans and the impact their tours of duty may have had on them. We hope referring a case to the Veterans Court gives veterans a fair chance at making the most of their lives.” “These veterans are coming back with very unique problems,” said San Giacomo. “If we can do something to help them reintegrate back into society in a positive way, that’s what we’re here to do. There was an incredible amount of cooperation between all the participants. At some point we just looked at each other and said, ‘this is the right thing to do.’” The Third Branch n October 2010
TIP Survey Measures Satisfaction
recent survey of users of the Judiciary’s Telephone Interpreting Program (TIP) shows that a majority of court interpreters surveyed strongly agree or agree that TIP provides interpretation services at levels comparable to face-to-face interpretation in the court. Feedback from the survey is already being used to improve the program. TIP provides remote interpretation for short court proceedings where a certified or highly qualified court interpreter may not be available locally. By way of a two-line telephone system in a courtroom, staff interpreters at eight provider courts may simultaneously interpret nationwide in short proceedings such as pretrial hearings, initial appearances, arraignments, and probation and pretrial services interviews. TIP helps ensure defendants receive quality interpreting services in a timely manner, while reducing the travel and costs associated with sending certified or highly qualified court interpreters to the courts that need services. The program has saved the Judiciary an estimated $9 million since fiscal year 2001.
TIP provides remote interpretation for short court proceedings where a certified or highly qualified court interpreter may not be available locally. Fifty-one districts that receive or provide TIP services were asked to participate in the survey. Within those districts, the TIP survey asked 1,074 stakeholders—district and magistrate judges, attorneys, interpreters and technical or administrative staff—about their level of 4
The Third Branch n October 2010
How would you rate the overall effectiveness of the TIP courtroom equipment and audio quality? 80%
■ Attorneys ■ Staff Interpreters
■ Contract Interpreters
■ Admin/Technical Staff
40 30 20 10 0
satisfaction with TIP and about areas that might need improvement. A majority of judges surveyed strongly agreed or agreed that TIP helps ensure access to justice for individuals with limited English proficiency, and a majority of judges and attorneys said they would use TIP again. All staff interpreters responding to the survey rated the effectiveness of the two-line telephone system as excellent. The response of administrative and technical staff also was overwhelmingly positive. Some suggestions for improvements related to possible telephone line or equipment malfunctions. Noise or echoes in the system were cited, and some interpreters thought their ability to provide services had been inhibited by the inability to hear the parties during proceedings, a problem that may be tracked to the placement of microphones in the courtroom. Some judges and attorneys indicated that the lack of three-way communication to facilitate private attorney/client exchanges during a hearing and the inability to receive interpretation over TIP for multiple defendants created challenges.
Scheduling interpreters across time zones was also a concern. Solutions to the concerns expressed by stakeholders already are on the way. The AO began by bringing coordinators of court interpreter services together for training in July and offering special TIP sessions. A review of new technologies has begun that will address audio quality concerns. The TIP equipment currently in use is very cost effective and reliable, but it is also 10 years old. Digital audio and Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) systems may provide better audio over the Judiciary data communications network. VoIP also allows for multiple channels, which would give attorneys the three-way communication they want for client conferences, as well as allow interpreters to serve multiple defendants. Also in the works are a new scheduling system and an on-line forum— taking the form of either a ListServ or Community of Practice—for TIP provider and receiver courts. Stakeholders will have a forum where they can connect, discuss issues, and work together on any problems that may arise in the future.
Inventory Control System Locally Grown
or the first time, a court-developed property inventory system has been selected for national support by the Judiciary. Fully automated and web-based, the Judiciary Inventory Control System ( JICS) tracks property purchased with court funds, everything from copiers and paper shredders to furniture and computers. With a direct link to the Judiciary’s financial accounting system (FAS4T) database, it can automatically import information, and it even has a bar-coded label system for use with a handheld scanning device, among other features. Nearly three years ago, the Northern District of New York created JICS for their own use. “It quickly became apparent there was a need for such a system Judiciary-wide,” said Clerk of Court Larry Baerman. The district court applied for funding from the Edwin L. Nelson Local IT Initiatives Grant Program to add capabilities and complete
Participants in Judicial Process Entitled to Safe Facility with Adequate Space
“It quickly became apparent there was a need for such a system Judiciary-wide.” —Clerk of Court Larry Baerman
development of the system. Today, 115 court units use JICS. Some courts have used off-the-shelf programs to track inventory, and some have done it the old-fashioned way, on paper. Why would a court use JICS? “Simply put, using this software strengthens internal controls and keeps a more accurate account of court assets,” said Baerman. “With automated file transfer from FAS4T to populate the inventory control system, courts use the information that’s already been entered to improve the oversight of court assets. It eliminates redundant data entry and makes better use of available resources. And given the lean
Federal Bench Gender Snapshot
continued from page 2
need of replacement are on the Judiciary’s Five-Year Courthouse Project Plan, and they are on the list as a result of the application of the Judiciary’s long-range facilities planning policies. “These policies employ objective criteria to determine which courthouses have the most dire space needs and which courthouses have the most serious security deficiencies,” said Ponsor, who also detailed the steps the Judiciary has taken to implement courtroom sharing policies. “The courthouse renovation and construction program exists to ensure the effective and efficient delivery of justice,” Ponsor said.
budgetary times, we need to look at ways to improve productivity.” Another convincing argument for JICS: potentially fewer audit findings related to inventory. Non-compliance with Judiciary guidelines on property management and disposal ranks in the top five of findings in audits of court units. According to Denise Marks, Furniture Program Manager, Space and Facilities Division at the Administrative Office, courts using JICS have had far fewer inventory-related audit findings. Courts that wish to implement JICS may download the program from the Northern District of New York’s website, along with training materials. Once JICS is in use at a court, access to live data is available via Blackberry or any web-enabled device with a connection to the Judiciary’s Data Communications Network. Help Desk support will be available from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Gender of all Federal Judges 1998 to 2009 2000
■ All Female Federal Judges
■ All Male Federal Judges
The number of female federal judges increased from 302 in 1998 to 496 in 2009. In 1998, females comprised 18.1 percent of all federal judges; in 2009 the percentage was 23.5.
The Third Branch n October 2010
2010 Director’s Awards
he 2010 Director’s Awards have been awarded to four teams of federal court employees whose innovations have improved the way the courts do business; to three court managers who exemplify outstanding leadership; and to a court employee who demonstrated remarkable courage. “I am continually impressed by the dedication and resourcefulness Judiciary employees bring to their work in the federal courts,” said Administrative Office Director Jim Duff. “The recipients of this year’s Director’s Awards demonstrate why our federal court system is admired and emulated around the world.” The 2010 award recipients are honored in three categories:
Extraordinary Actions The Director’s Award for Extraordinary Actions recognizes Judiciary employees for exhibiting bravery and concern for others, displaying creativity and resourcefulness, or ensuring that the Judiciary’s mission is met in the face of adverse conditions.
Court Security Officer Stanley Cooper after he was fatally shot next to her by an assailant entering the Lloyd D. George Courthouse in Las Vegas, Nevada. Within a few days of this traumatic event, Saavedra returned to work and continued to perform at her usual high level. Her example was calming to others who struggled with the aftermath of the shooting, and assisted them in the return to their daily routines. Saavedra’s demonstration of courage and compassion is recognized by the Director’s Award for Extraordinary Actions.
Outstanding Leadership The 2010 Director’s Award for Outstanding Leadership recognizes managerial employees who have led national efforts to improve the Judiciary, shown exemplary stewardship of resources, improved service or increased workforce productivity, or promoted public access to the Judiciary. The following three Judiciary employees received the award:
probation offices along the border and to increase the safety of her officers. She conserved resources with the consolidation of the probation and pretrial services offices, and proposed changes in policy that will better fund drug laboratory services for districts in the region. She organized three days of training in search and seizure for probation officers in her district, and hosted a multi-district meeting on the support needed to supervise offenders in Indian Country, which led to the creation of the Indian Country Steering Committee. She has established a comprehensive team approach to the supervision of sex offenders, effectively addressed staffing issues, and strengthened the district’s workforce initiatives. For these and many other examples of leadership, commitment, and excellence in the performance of her duties, Chávez received this year’s award.
Dana C. McWay
Anita López Chávez Denise Saavedra
On the morning of January 4, 2010, Denise Saavedra, electronic court recorder operator, for the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada, stayed by the side of and provided comfort to 6
The Third Branch n October 2010
In a border district with the second highest felony caseload in the country, Chief Probation Officer Anita López Chávez, of the District of New Mexico, has led several initiatives to enhance awareness of the issues affecting
The many contributions of Dana C. McWay, Bankruptcy Clerk for the Eastern District of Missouri, extend well beyond her own bankruptcy court and have earned her the Director’s Award. She served on the CM/ECF Working group to implement the system in the courts, and now serves as the chairperson of the Next Generation of Bankruptcy CM/ECF’s Clerk’s Office Functional Requirements Group, as well as a committee member
for the district court CM/ECF Next Generation steering group. She identified the impact of and developed procedures to perform the new duties associated with the new bankruptcy reform legislation and she provided assistance to the Federal Judicial Center in updating its Judicial Code of Conduct training program, helping to create a website for trainers. McWay was instrumental in the creation and development of judicial learning centers at two Missouri courthouses, and created both the Pinckney Debt Program, to provide debt and bankruptcy education to high school students, and the Kids in Court program, which won the American Bar Foundation Award for Outstanding Children’s Education Program. She speaks frequently to community and student groups, mentors court personnel, and has authored a number of legal textbooks and publications.
Robert W. Rack, Jr.
Robert W. Rack, Jr., Chief Pre-Argument Attorney, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, received the 2010 Director’s Award for the pivotal role he has played in creating, developing, and shaping mediation programs in the federal appellate courts. When Rack was hired 28 years ago to head the Sixth Circuit’s mediation office, there were few models for a settlement program at the appellate level. A study
soon showed, however, that the Sixth Circuit’s program resolved more cases than an additional circuit judge would have and reduced disposition times. Ultimately, nine other federal circuits— and eventually many state appellate courts—adopted settlement programs that borrowed many features from the Sixth Circuit model. Rack’s leadership secured funding, administrative support, and regular training programs for circuit mediators nationwide.
Excellence in Court Operations: Court Technology The Director’s Award for Excellence in Court Operations–Court Technology recognizes employees who have developed, identified, and/or deployed information management technologies and applications that meet critical court requirements. Those technologies or applications help the Judiciary operate with economy and efficiency and/or improve service Judiciary-wide. The “Digital Recording Team” of IT Director Jeffrey Elmore, Assistant IT Director Tony Cirigliano and Programming Manager Bobby Boone, in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, and Luta K. Pleiss, Help Desk and Software Trainer in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska, received the 2010 Director’s Award for Excellence in Court Operations. The team developed an interface for digital audio systems used in a pilot program to make digital audio recordings of court proceedings available online. The interface allows the smooth retrieval of data, regardless of the underlying proprietary system. Without the uniformity provided by a single, national interface—both internally for the courts and externally for users—the pilot would not have succeeded. The Team also developed a user manual of best practices to accompany national implementation of the system, and a Wiki for courts to
share information and best practices. The Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of New York used the interface to make digital hearings available to the public in two major auto manufacturer bankruptcies, with the result that the digital hearings were downloaded over 1,000 times. The JERS Team of Kent Creasy, Director of Technology Services, and John Bain, Project Director, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, created the innovative Jury Evidence Recording System. The system captures evidence electronically, as it is admitted, and allows jurors to use a touch screen kiosk to view the evidence during deliberations. JERS helps judges, attorneys and jurors use their time more effectively, and when the trial is over, appellate judges and litigants can use the JERS technology with the same advantages. Creasy and Bain designed, tested and implemented the system in their district, then collaborated with other districts to successfully implement JERS in other courts. The OPERA Team is composed of William J. Isbell, IV, IT Programmer in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama, Kevin L. Beaulieu, network administrator in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine, Eric Michael Swanson, programmer analyst in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire, and Senior U.S. Probation Officer Donald L. Martenz, Jr., in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. They designed, developed, and implemented the web-based Offender Payment Enhanced Report Access (OPERA) system that provides probation officers with access to offender fine, restitution, and special assessment data recorded by district clerks’ offices. By letting the civil and criminal accounting modules of the Judiciary’s financial accounting system talk directly to the See 2010 Director’s Awards on page 9 The Third Branch n October 2010
October Judicial Milestones Appointed: Jane Branstetter Stranch,
as U.S. Court of Appeals Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, September 24. Appointed: Sharon Johnson Coleman,
as U.S. District Judge, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, September 7. Appointed: Gary Scott Feinerman, as U.S. District Judge, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, September 13. Appointed: Katharine Malley Samson,
as U.S. Bankruptcy Judge, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, September 30. Appointed: Sean H. Lane, as U.S.
Bankruptcy Judge, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, September 7. Appointed: H. Christopher Mott, as
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Texas, September 20. Appointed: Leo I. Brisbois, as U.S.
Magistrate Judge, U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, August 30. Appointed: Cheryl A. Eifert, as U.S.
Magistrate Judge, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, September 1.
Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, September 30. Senior Status: U.S. District Judge Sidney H. Stein, U.S. District Court for
the Southern District of New York, September 1. Elevated: U.S. District Judge Bruce D. Black, to Chief Judge, U.S. District
Court for the District of New Mexico, succeeding U.S. District Judge Martha Vazquez, September 2. Elevated: U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Brenda T. Rhoades, to Chief Judge,
U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Texas, succeeding U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Bill G. Parker, September 1. Retired: U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Samuel L. Bufford, U.S. Bankruptcy Court
for the Central District of California, August 31. Retired: U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Leslie Tchaikovsky, U.S. Bankruptcy Court
for the Northern District of California, August 31. Retired: U.S. Magistrate Judge Donald W. Bostwick, U.S. District Court for the
District of Kansas, August 1. Retirement: U.S. Magistrate Judge Raymond L. Erickson, U.S. District
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
Visit our Internet site at www.uscourts.gov 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 Karen_Redmond@ao.uscourts.gov.
JUDICIAL BOXSCORE As of October 1, 2010 Courts of Appeals Vacancies............................................ 20 Nominees........................................... 13 District Courts
Magistrate Judge, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, September 13.
Court for the District of Minnesota, August 27.
Vacancies............................................ 84 Nominees........................................... 34
Deceased: U.S. Senior District Judge Charles A. Moye, Jr., U.S. District Court
Courts with “Judicial Emergencies”..................... 49
Appointed: Gary R. Jones, as U.S.
for the Northern District of Georgia, July 26.
Appointed: George C. Hanks, Jr., as U.S.
Magistrate Judge. U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, September 13.
Senior Status: U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Jacques L. Wiener, Jr., U.S.
The Third Branch n October 2010
Up-to-date information on judicial vacancies is available at http://www.uscourts.gov/ JudgesAndJudgeships/JudicialVacancies.aspx
New Chairs Head Five Conference Committees
ive Judicial Conference committees have new chairs. The committee chairs were named by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. and began their terms October 1, 2010. Judge David A. Katz (N.D. Ohio) succeeds Judge Donald C. Pogue (Court of Int’l Trade) as chair of the Committee on Audits and Administrative Office Accountability. Judge Robert Holmes Bell (W.D. Mich.) succeeds Judge Julie E. Carnes (N.D. Ga.) as chair of the Committee on Criminal Law. The Committee on International Judicial Relations will be chaired by Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain (9th Cir.), who succeeds Judge Charles R. Simpson III (W.D. Ky.). Two of the Advisory Committees to the Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure have new chairs. Bankruptcy Judge Eugene R. Wedoff, (N.D. Ill.) will head the Advisory Committee on Bankruptcy Rules, succeeding Judge Laura Taylor Swain (S.D. NY). Judge Sidney A. Fitzwater (N.D. Tex.) succeeds Judge Robert L. Hinkle (N.D. Fla.) as chair of the Advisory Committee on Rules of Evidence.
2010 Director’s Awards continued from page 7
Probation and Pretrial Services Automated Case Tracking System through OPERA, officers can search for information themselves, at any time. Reports can be exported to a spreadsheet or a PDF document. OPERA soon will be accessible nationally on CM/ECF.
Excellence in Court Operations: Court Support The Director’s Award for Excellence in Court Operations–Court Support recognizes employees who have
Photos left to right starting at top left: Judge David A. Katz, Judge Robert Holmes Bell, Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain, Bankruptcy Judge Eugene R. Wedoff and Judge Sidney A. Fitzwater.
facilitated customer service and/or improved court internal functions and procedures, while helping the Judiciary operate with economy and efficiency and/or improve service. The Pontiac Team of Pro Se Law Clerk Cynthia D. Fears, Clerk of Court Pamela E. Robinson, Information Services Director Jeffrey A. Gustafson, Case Manager Martha Bailey, and Courtroom Deputy Kerin Burns in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois is recognized for the innovative and successful electronic-filing pilot project they developed for the Pontiac Correctional Facility. What was once a
paper-heavy and labor intensive task of filing prisoner complaints or pleadings has been streamlined to a single scanned document, forwarded to the court for electronic filing. Time, paper, envelopes, copier supplies, maintenance fees and postage are saved and the prisoner case management process has been significantly improved. Other courts now have contacted the Team for information about starting similar programs. Photos of all Director’s Awards recipients are online in this month’s issue. www.uscourts.gov/News/TheThirdBranch.aspx
The Third Branch n October 2010
The Congressional Caucus on the Judicial Branch Q: Why was the Congressional Caucus on the Judicial Branch formed? A: Biggert: Back in 2003, Congressman Schiff and I launched the Congressional Caucus on the Judicial Branch to strengthen relations between Congress and the Judiciary. Outside of the Senate confirmation process, communication between the two branches of the federal government had become increasingly limited, a problem that former Chief Justice Rehnquist highlighted in his 2003 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary. Schiff: Congresswoman Biggert and I both saw that relations between Congress and the Third Branch were at a dangerously low ebb. We wanted to help bridge the divide, so we approached then Chief Justice William Rehnquist about establishing the Caucus. He was enthusiastic and agreed to be our inaugural speaker. We’re now up to 45 members, and we’re hoping to continue growing and adding new members.
Q: Your caucus is bipartisan. Why is that important to your activities? A: Schiff: The issues we deal with are overwhelmingly bipartisan, which I find a very refreshing change. Having a well functioning Third Branch is not a partisan issue, and certainly having a strong line of communication between Congress and the Judiciary is an institutional interest that knows no political boundaries. The Caucus does get involved in controversial issues; our top priority is making sure that Congress is hearing from the judges and vice versa. Biggert: The pursuit of justice should not be a partisan issue, and our members all share the same goal of strengthening communication between branches of 10
The Third Branch n October 2010
Representative Judy Biggert
government. For that reason, the issues that we work on rarely lend themselves to party-line divisions. In fact, the bipartisan nature of the Caucus often makes it easier for our members to seek out and share their expertise on the Judicial Branch with colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and lends credibility to the issues we advocate.
Q: How does the Caucus identify issues on which you work? What are some of the key activities/issues in which the caucus is involved? A: Biggert: Our mission is to work with the Judicial Branch on issues in which Congress directly impacts the court system, including new judgeships, sentencing guidelines, civil procedure, judicial vacancies, judicial compensation, the funding of courthouses, and other priority projects. As with most legislative issues, topics can come to our attention through discussions with constituents, other Members of Congress, or even reading the newspaper. Most often, however, the Caucus is driven by the needs and concerns presented to us by officers of the court. Schiff: The issues the Caucus gets involved in are driven by what we’re hearing from judges. We start from the premise that it is absolutely vital to ensure a strong and independent federal Judiciary to
Representative Adam Schiff
administer justice quickly and fairly. Some of the key issues I see as related to that are the need for additional judgeships, assisting with judicial compensation, securing funding for courthouse construction, addressing security concerns in the courts, and other necessities. Biggert: For example, Rep. Schiff and I have worked on legislation to improve the way cost of living adjustments are administered for court employees. In the past, we worked to change the way the Judiciary pays rent to the General Services Administration (GSA) so that courts would not be overcharged for their operating expenses.
Q: How can the Judiciary help the Caucus make the case for new judgeships to Members of Congress? A: Schiff: One powerful message comes from judges who can speak to the impact that Congress’s failure to act has on their work administering justice. There’s a real world impact when cases wait for months or years for resolution because there is a shortage of judges in a particular area. But it is vital to hear from the public as well, and the court’s partnerships with bar associations, business organizations, and others concerned over the need to have a speedy and effective forum for dispute resolution is an important asset to bring to bear.
Biggert: Members of the Judicial Branch often rightly shy away from taking a hand in matters of policy, but that delineation is one for the courtroom. Off the bench, judges need to share with Members of Congress how legislative decisions on these matters impact the ability of constituents to access quick and fair justice under the law. This can be done through letters, phone calls, meetings, or through organizations like our Caucus.
Q: As a Caucus, you meet with members of the Supreme Court, with state court judges and with other members of the Judiciary. What are the benefits of these interchanges? A: Biggert: These meetings provide a critical and rare opportunity for Members of Congress to interact with senior judges in a context where no pressing decision, legal dispute, or Constitutional question is at stake. It’s a chance to communicate on a personal level about the challenges facing our justice system, discuss priorities for funding, and share experiences and perspectives on matters that might otherwise be neglected. In the future, I hope to seek attendance from those with a broader range of judicial experience, including those from the circuit courts, and to draw greater attendance by Members of Congress who might typically focus their attentions on other issues because they have a background other than law. Schiff: The Caucus has had the opportunity to host nine Supreme Court Justices, with Justice Sotomayor as the most recent guest earlier this year. Of all the Caucus’ activities, that’s the one where we see the greatest member interest—the chance to have a frank, off-the-record exchange with a Supreme Court Justice is a rare opportunity. We are also looking at opportunities to bring in federal judges from the circuit courts who can speak to
the issues they face. Those are important conversations as well. The Caucus encompasses members who were practicing attorneys and have a lot of experience with the federal courts, but we also have members who have never practiced law. So for some members the Caucus provides an opportunity to learn more about the structure of the federal courts and how judges approach their duties. We have a great diversity in the Caucus in terms of parties, regions, interests, and backgrounds. I think that’s one of the strengths of the Caucus.
Q: What could the Judiciary do to help Congress better understand our needs and interests? A: Biggert: The House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts and Competition Policy recently heard testimony from several district judges regarding the challenges facing our nation’s Judicial Branch. These hearings and other “on the record” opportunities play a central role in turning judicial knowledge into legislative action. But less formal opportunities for communication should not be underestimated. Judges should seek out Members of Congress, build reciprocal relationships, and share their knowledge. Schiff: Don’t be afraid to talk to Members of Congress about the needs of the Judiciary. Judges frequently have personal and professional relationships with Congressmen and Senators, and they should maintain those ties and keep the lines of communication open.
Q: How has your personal experience informed your view of the federal Judiciary, and what do you see as the Judiciary’s most pressing needs/issues/problems? A: Schiff: I spent a lot of time in federal courtrooms, first as a law clerk for a
wonderful U.S. District Court Judge, Wm. Matthew Byrne, Jr., and then as an Assistant U.S. Attorney. I have always been impressed by the very high caliber of judges who are appointed to the federal bench and I am more than aware of the extraordinary caseloads that they carry. I am concerned that our ability to compensate judges appropriately will have an adverse impact on the quality of candidates for the bench in the future. What used to be the capstone of a distinguished legal career is now increasingly becoming a waypoint, as many judges leave the bench to go back into practice or become private judges. As Chief Justice Roberts observed in his report to Congress, continued inaction on judicial pay threatens to erode the quality of the federal Judiciary over time as we lose judges to highly paid private sector jobs. No one expects the federal government to offer the same pay as a top law firm, but the larger the split becomes, the harder it will be to recruit and keep the best judges. Additionally, the confirmation process in the Senate has become excessively partisan, and good candidates are being discouraged by the years it can take to get an up or down vote in the Senate. Clearly the Senate has the right and duty to perform their diligence on each nominee and ensure they are deserving of a lifetime appointment to the Federal bench, but I believe the Caucus has a role in educating Members about the impact of extended delays on attracting judges and leaving positions unfilled. Finally, there is a pressing need for courthouse construction. Courthouses are expensive undertakings, but they are also worthy projects that create jobs and pay lasting dividends in terms of a healthy judicial system. See Interview on page 12 The Third Branch n October 2010
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interview Biggert: I loved my very first job out of law school, clerking for a brilliant judge and great mentor, Judge Luther M. Swygert (7th Cir.). I developed a deep appreciation for the challenges of administering justice, and for the responsibility of interpreting the (often vague) language laid down by Congress. That is why I have always favored the use of legislative language that makes the will of Congress—and by extension, the American people—clear, concise, Constitutional, and readily applicable to real world circumstances. It is because of my respect for this responsibility that I have always viewed the attraction and retention of high-quality individuals to the bench as a key challenge in maintaining an effective Judiciary. Unfortunately, the current backlog of judicial nominations and Senate confirmations is discouraging and a hindrance to proper delivery of justice.
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Q: The Judiciary currently faces important space needs in the form of new courthouse construction. Are you concerned that forcing Federal Judges to share courtrooms could have a negative impact on the smooth operation of the courts and their ability to manage caseloads? A: Biggert: Overloaded courthouses can have a serious impact on the ability of victims to seek restitution and the accused to access a fair and expeditious trial. At a time when Congress is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to expand its own office space, staffing, and eco-friendly amenities, it is especially concerning that federal courthouses are processing more cases with fewer resources. That said, all levels of government have faced increasing budgetary pressures in the
current economic climate, and as with so many other priorities, it may be some time before courthouse construction will be able to keep pace with the need for space. Schiff: The sharing of courtrooms is far from ideal, and I do have concerns about the operational problems it is likely to create. For this reason, I think it should be avoided whenever possible. In these difficult financial circumstances, some courtroom sharing is probably unavoidable—the recent compromise over construction of the Los Angeles Courthouse is one example. Here, because of prolonged delays and escalating costs, the original design of the courthouse was shelved as part of a difficult compromise in order to advance the project and meet the imperative of addressing security and space needs.