Judiciary Approves Free Access to Judges’ Workload Reports; Courtroom Sharing for Magistrate Judges
September 15, 2009
Contact: David Sellers, 202-502-2600
The Judicial Conference of the United States today voted to make a
judge-specific workload report available for the first time over the
Internet at no charge and also approved a courtroom sharing policy for
magistrate judges in new courthouse and courtroom construction.
At its biannual meeting, the Conference voted to make all future
Civil Justice Reform Act (CJRA) reports available to the public without
charge on the Judiciary’s public website, www.uscourts.gov, beginning with the period ending March 31, 2010.
The Conference CJRA reports are prepared by the Administrative
Office based on civil case data submitted by courts twice a year. They
contain, by district judge and magistrate judge, all motions pending
more than six months, all bench trials that have remained undecided
more than six months, and all civil cases pending more than three
years. The reports also contain data on bankruptcy appeals and Social
Security appeals pending more than six months.
The reporting requirements, established by Congress in 1990 and
supported by the Judicial Conference, are designed to help reduce both
costs and delays in civil litigation in district courts. To date, the
reports have been available on the Public Access to Court Electronic
Records system (PACER), which assesses a user fee. Future reports will
be available for free on the Judiciary’s Internet website.
The courtroom sharing policy revises the U.S. Courts Design Guide for
courthouse construction, calling for sharing at a ratio of two judges
per courtroom in courthouses with three or more magistrate judges. In
addition, one courtroom will be provided for magistrate judge criminal
duty proceedings. In courthouses where the sharing formula would result
in a fraction because of an odd number of judges, the number of
courtrooms allocated will remain at the next lower whole number. There
are more than 500 magistrate judges serving the federal courts.
The policy approved today is the next step in the Judiciary’s
aggressive cost-containment efforts. At its meeting last September, the
Conference adopted a policy for senior trial judges to share courtrooms
in new construction. Also under study are the feasibility of a
courtroom-sharing policy for non-senior district judges in large
courthouses and courtroom usage in bankruptcy courts.
A courtroom use analysis was requested by a House of Representatives
subcommittee in 2005, and a comprehensive study was conducted by the
Federal Judicial Center. The U.S. Courts Design Guide policy
changes approved today apply to new courthouse construction and the
construction of additional courtrooms in existing buildings.
The Conference’s Committee on Court
Administration and Case Management, which proposed the courtroom use
recommendation, reported that the changes demonstrate “the Judiciary’s commitment to pursuing appropriate efficiencies in courtroom utilization.”
The Judicial Conference is the policy-making body for the federal
court system. The Chief Justice serves as its presiding officer. It 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.