Judicial Conference Condemns Courtroom Sharing Proposal
March 14, 2000
Contact: David Sellers, 202-502-2600
The Judicial Conference of the United States today voted to "strongly condemn the unilateral efforts of the Office of Management and Budget to impose a courtroom sharing policy on the judicial branch, as an unwarranted and inappropriate intrusion into the constitutionally mandated independence of the Judiciary."
At its biannual meeting today in Washington, the Conference also voted to rescind the December 1999 decision of its Financial Disclosure Committee to withhold the release of judges' financial disclosure reports where the requester indicates the reports will be posted on the Internet. The Conference also voted to instruct the chairs of its Codes of Conduct, Financial Disclosure, and Security and Facilities Committees to consider proposed legislative amendments to the Ethics in Government Act that would balance the public's need for information on judges' financial interests with judges' security needs.
In its consideration of courtroom use, the Conference Committee on Security and Facilities noted that historically, federal and state trial courts have allotted a courtroom for each active judge. The ready availability of a courtroom is essential to a judge's ability to perform his or her judicial duties. However, the President's fiscal year 2001 budget request assumes that three judges will share two courtrooms in all future federal courthouses. The immediate effect of OMB's action is the elimination of 27 out of 97 planned courtrooms in seven new courthouse projects. A list of the affected courthouses is attached.
The Director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has statutory responsibility to "provide" accommodations for the courts, and the General Services Administration (GSA) is "authorized and directed" by Congress to provide the accommodations requested by the AO Director. OMB does not have authority to determine the number of courtrooms to be provided in a courthouse or over the underlying policy governing courtroom utilization. Congress specifically assigned these responsibilities to the circuit judicial councils, which have authority to "approve" court accommodations as necessary.
Following consideration by several Judicial Conference committees and two studies on courtroom utilization and case management, in March 1997 the Judicial Conference reaffirmed its policy of providing one courtroom for each active district judge. The Conference also provided guidelines to circuit judicial councils when considering the number of courtrooms to approve for senior judges who do not draw caseloads requiring substantial use of a courtroom.
In its March 2000 report to the Judicial Conference, the Committee on Security and Facilities said, "This Committee strongly objects to the unilateral action of OMB in superimposing its courtroom sharing policy as a requirement for funding current and future courthouse projects since it has neither statutory authority nor experience and knowledge of the federal courts."
In its consideration of judges' financial disclosure reports, the Conference today adopted a policy that states that while the appropriate Conference committees review the issue, when the Disclosure Committee receives a request for a judge's report that may result in dissemination to the public, the Committee will invite the judge to review the information contained in the report. If the judge believes it appropriate, the judge may request redaction of "personal and sensitive information that is otherwise confidential and could endanger the officer or other person if obtained by any member of the public hostile to the judicial officer." When the Disclosure Committee receives such a request, it will consult with the U.S. Marshals Service, and will grant or deny the judge's request after determining if the information sought to be redacted is not otherwise easily available to the public and could, if obtained by a hostile member of the public, endanger the judge or other person.
The Conference also decided today that on a permanent basis, the Committee on Financial Disclosure will implement procedures requiring judges who believe redactions to be appropriate before public dissemination, to request such redactions when the annual disclosure form is filed. In deciding whether to grant such a request, the Committee will follow the procedures specified above.
The Judicial Conference of the United States is the principal policy-making body for the federal court system. The Chief Justice serves as the presiding officer of the Conference, which is composed of the chief judges of the 13 courts of appeals, a district judge from each of the 12 geographic circuits, and the chief judge of the Court of International Trade. The Conference meets twice a year to consider administrative and policy issues affecting the court system and to make recommendations to Congress concerning legislation involving the Judicial Branch. A list of Conference members is attached.
JUDICIAL CONFERENCE OF THE UNITED STATES
Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, Presiding
Chief Judge Juan R. Torruella
Judge Joseph A. DiClerico, Jr.
|First Circuit |
District of New Hampshire
Chief Judge Ralph K. Winter, Jr.
Chief Judge Charles P. Sifton
|Second Circuit |
Eastern District of New York
Chief Judge Edward R. Becker
Chief Judge Donald E. Ziegler
|Third Circuit |
Western District of Pennsylvania
|Chief Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III |
Chief Judge Charles H. Haden II
|Fourth Circuit |
Southern District of West Virginia
|Chief Judge Carolyn Dineen King |
Judge Hayden W. Head, Jr.
|Fifth Circuit |
Southern District of Texas
Chief Judge Boyce F. Martin, Jr.
Judge Thomas A. Wiseman, Jr.
|Sixth Circuit |
Middle District of Tennessee
Chief Judge Richard A. Posner
Judge Robert L. Miller, Jr.
|Seventh Circuit |
Northern District of Indiana
Chief Judge Roger L. Wollman
Judge James M. Rosenbaum
|Eighth Circuit |
District of Minnesota
Chief Judge Procter Hug, Jr.
Judge Judith N. Keep
|Ninth Circuit |
Southern District of California
Chief Judge Stephanie K. Seymour
Judge Ralph G. Thompson
|Tenth Circuit |
Western District of Oklahoma
Chief Judge R. Lanier Anderson
Chief Judge Charles R. Butler, Jr.
|Eleventh Circuit |
Southern District of Alabama
|Chief Judge Harry T. Edwards |
Chief Judge Norma H. Johnson
District of Columbia Circuit
District of Columbia
|Chief Judge Haldane Robert Mayer || |
Chief Judge Gregory W. Carman
|Court of International Trade |
Conference Secretary: Leonidas Ralph Mecham, Director
Administrative Office of U.S. Courts
Courthouse Projects Included in the
President's FY 2001 Budget Request
|Courthouse ||Courtrooms Requested ||Courtrooms Deleted by OMB |
|Los Angeles, California || |
|Seattle, Washington || |
|Richmond, Virginia || |
|Gulfport, Mississippi || |
|Washington, D.C. || |
|Miami, Florida || |
|Little Rock, Arkansas || |
Courthouse Projects Not Included in the
President's FY 2001 Budget Request
Buffalo, New York
El Paso, Texas
Las Cruces, New Mexico
Salt Lake City, Utah
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Prepared by: Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts
Office of Public Affairs, 202-502-2600