A fundamental Judiciary objective is to ensure that federal court proceedings are conducted in facilities that are safe, accessible to the public, efficient, and properly equipped.
Courthouse Construction Funding
The Judicial Conference’s current courthouse construction priorities, as articulated in the Five-year Courthouse Project Plan, are: Mobile, Alabama; Nashville, Tennessee; Savannah, Georgia; San Antonio, Texas; Charlotte, North Carolina; Greenville, South Carolina; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Norfolk, Virginia; Anniston, Alabama; Toledo, Ohio; Chattanooga, Tennessee; and Des Moines, Iowa. The FY 2013 full year Continuing Resolution did not contain funding for new courthouse construction.
The President’s FY 2014 budget request included funding for repairs and alterations at a number of courthouse locations, and both the House and Senate included funding for addressing courthouse needs in their appropriations bills. The House bill included $100 million for construction, acquisition, repair, alteration, and security projects as prioritized by the Judicial Conference. The Senate bill included $308 million for repairs and alterations at the following courthouse locations: Fairbanks, Alaska; Mobile, Alabama; Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco, California; Denver, Colorado; New Haven, Connecticut; Baltimore, Maryland; Detroit, Michigan; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Salt Lake City, Utah. It also included $31 million for GSA to acquire the Frank R. Lautenberg U.S. Post Office and Courthouse in Newark, New Jersey.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014 provided $69.5 million to the General Services Administration (GSA) to fully fund costs associated with the Mobile, Alabama courthouse project. GSA received lump sum amounts totaling $972 million for basic and major repairs and alterations projects and the expectation is that GSA will use a portion of this funding for courthouse-related repairs and alterations projects that were included under the GSA section of the President’s fiscal year 2014 budget submission to Congress.
5-Year Plan Asset Management Review
On the recommendation of its Space and Facilities Committee, the Judicial Conference Executive Committee directed that all projects on the Judiciary’s Five-Year Courthouse Project Plan that have not already done so, undergo an evaluation using the Asset Management Planning (AMP) Process. The AMP Process includes comprehensive physical and functional assessments of each courthouse in the district being studied, application of standardized planning assumptions, development of strategies to address current and future space needs, application of Judicial Conference-approved business rules that consider a range of space solutions, and a method for determining the relative urgency of space needs. The methodology is intended to help control future rent costs, identify current and future space needs, and assist the circuit councils in managing their rent budgets.
Integrated Workplace Initiative and the Right Fit Program
- Integrated Workplace Initiative (IWI). The objective of the IWI is to reduce the Judiciary’s space footprint by capitalizing on the flexibility technology provides.
The IWI research and studies, begun in 2011, examine how court units work, explore changing work styles, research new and emerging technologies, identify successful mobile working situations—for example, probation officers working remotely in the field rather than in the courthouse—and develop ways to support a better workspace environment. Surveys of over 3000 Judiciary personnel located in 25 districts/circuits, were followed by virtual and in-person interviews and workshops.
Proofs of concept (i.e., floor plans and furniture layouts incorporating mobility) have been developed for the district court clerk's office, probation office, and pretrial services offices located in Des Moines, Iowa; San Antonio, Texas; and Tucson, Arizona.
The Chicago probation office project, in conjunction with GSA’s Total Workplace (similar to IWI), is currently in the design stage. Anticipated benefits and savings include: relocating all personnel from leased space to a federal building; space savings of about 55 percent or greater; rent savings of about $1.4 million or more annually; and break-even (pay-back) of less than 2 years. A new US Courts Design Guide chapter and toolkit will provide guidance on alternative workplaces, and analysis to compare strategies, calculate space and rent savings, and project break-even points.
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In December 2013, court staff from around the country and AO staff met to discuss the integrated workplace initiative and other workplace solutions that will reduce space costs for the Judiciary.
- Right Fit Program. The goal of the Right Fit Program is to identify, analyze, and implement all types of space reduction projects across the Judiciary in an effective and comprehensive way. Space reduction projects include court units releasing unused space, renovation projects incorporating mobility (IWI) concepts, and “right-sizing” space to align with the US Courts Design Guide based on current operations and personnel. Potential projects are continually being identified by judges, court unit executives, and assistant circuit executives for space.
Partnering Workshops between Circuits and GSA Regions
A series of partnering workshops were conducted in FY 2013 between nearly every circuit and General Services Administration (GSA) region. Jointly hosted by the AO and GSA, with assistance from the Federal Judicial Center, the workshops covered both basic operations and emerging policies of the Judiciary and GSA, using tools such as the Service Level Agreement, maintenance delegations, the IWI, and project management best practices. This face-to-face interaction has contained costs and improved communications and customer service. The workshops have included participation and support from assistant circuit executives for space and GSA regional commissioners, along with more than 350 court unit executives and 200 GSA regional staff peers from almost every circuit and region of the country. Travel costs have been minimized by leveraging existing government conference space and resources.
Construction Funding for Capital Security Improvements
The FY 2012 appropriations bill included $20 million in funding to GSA for a new Judiciary Capital Security Program (CSP) to help the Judiciary and GSA address security deficiencies in existing court facilities where physical alterations are viable. The program’s goal is to improve security conditions through renovations to existing federal courthouses in locations unlikely to be considered in the near future for construction of a new courthouse or major renovation project.
In FY 2012, four projects were selected and are now under construction: Brunswick, Georgia; Benton, Illinois; Lexington, Kentucky; and San Juan, Puerto Rico. In FY 2013, the St. Thomas, Virgin Islands project was selected.
Concept design studies and estimates have been completed for four additional locations: Raleigh, North Carolina; Columbus, Georgia; Monroe, Louisiana; and Texarkana, Arkansas/Texas and four additional studies are being prepared: Alexandria, Louisiana; Wilmington, Delaware; and Paducah, Kentucky. Each study will identify potential design solutions and associated project cost estimates for addressing courthouse security concerns and endorse a preferred solution. The potential projects will then be ready to implement, subject to appropriated funding.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014 did not include funding for the Judiciary Capital Security Program, but GSA will be asked to consider funding for several of the projects where studies have been completed. The Judicial Conference supports the program and will work with Congressional appropriators to restore funding for the program in FY 2015.
National IT Security Policies
In early 2013, an attack by computer hackers temporarily disabled two Judiciary websites. Absent AO intervention, the broader network could have been compromised. These events provided the courts and the AO an opportunity to review the Judiciary’s security incident detection, notification, response processes, and protective technologies, and to identify areas for improvement. In June 2013, the Judicial Conference Committee on Information Technology endorsed three new policies to help safeguard the Judiciary’s public websites. The policies require courts to (1) install intrusion protection software; (2) have their public websites scanned by the AO for vulnerabilities upon initial deployment and whenever software or system-level changes are made; and (3) resolve high-risk vulnerabilities in a timely manner or have the AO disconnect their public-facing servers from the Judiciary’s network until corrective action is taken and verified.