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Conference Memorializes Late Chief Justice Acts on Administrative, Legislative Matters

September 20, 2005

Contact: David Sellers, 202-502-2600

The Judicial Conference of the United States today passed a resolution recognizing the late Chief Justice Rehnquist for his "integrity, courtesy, deep humility, and courage." At its meeting, the Conference also acted on a variety of issues relating to administration of the federal courts and pending legislative proposals.

The resolution states in part that Chief Justice Rehnquist "presided at the semiannual Judicial Conference sessions for almost two decades. He ran efficient meetings - showing respect for the rules of order and expecting succinctness in presentation, while demonstrating the wit that was his hallmark. . . .We mourn the passing of our Chief, a great jurist and good friend, and we express our deepest sympathy to his family, which he loved above all else."

In other business, the Conference:

  • Agreed not to take a position on legislation providing for restructuring of the Ninth Judicial Circuit. Further, the Conference said that any consideration of splitting the Ninth Circuit should be independently based on the circuit split issue alone and not driven by possible linkage of that issue to a judgeship bill. In addition, the Conference expressed great concern with any legislation that would provide inadequate levels of judicial resources and an uncertain level of funding to support new circuit structures, and said it would oppose any such legislation.
  • Approved new Rule 32.1 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, which concerns the citation of unpublished opinions. The proposed rule, which still must be approved by the Supreme Court and transmitted to Congress, was first published for comment in August 2003. Since then, studies have been conducted, a public hearing convened, and more than 500 comments submitted. The present practice governing citation of unpublished opinions varies among the circuits, with some permitting citation, others disfavoring citation but permitting it in certain circumstances, and others prohibiting citation. Proposed Rule 32.1 permits the citation in briefs of opinions, orders, or other judicial dispositions that have been designated "not for publication," "non-precedential," or the like. The rule applies only to decisions issued on or after January 1, 2007 .
  • Adopted a resolution that recognizes the "extraordinary performance and exemplary dedication to the administration of justice of the federal court personnel who are working to help the affected courts recover from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina." The Conference specifically acknowledged the hardships endured and the "courage, commitment, and hard work" of the judges and court staff in the Fifth and Eleventh Circuits.

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 comprised 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.