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Judicial Conference Convenes Fall Meeting

September 15, 1998

Contact: David Sellers, 202-502-2600

At its biannual meeting today in Washington, the Judicial Conference of the United States voted to ask its Committees on Codes of Conduct and Financial Disclosure to consider if the Conference should encourage all courts to maintain, in the clerk's office, a list for each judge of the companies in which the judge, or the judge's spouse, or minor child residing in the household, has a financial interest requiring recusal.

In addition, the Judicial Conference's Financial Disclosure Committee has directed that the AO Form 10A, which is used to request a copy of a disclosure report, will be available on the Judiciary's Internet site; the requirement that any requests for reports be notarized be deleted; and the cost for copying reports will be reduced from 50 cents a page to 20.

The Financial Disclosure Committee found "these changes to be positive steps in improving public access to financial disclosure reports without compromising the security of judges."

 

In other action, the Conference:

• Agreed to urge the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate, to continue the long-standing tradition of appointing a federal judge to chair the U.S. Sentencing Commission. If Congress adjourns next month without acting on any of the Commission's six pending vacancies, Judge Richard P. Conaboy the Commission's chairman will be the only remaining commissioner. He has announced his resignation effective October 31. In the Commission's 14 year history, its chairman has always been a federal judge.

• Agreed to establish an Internet fee of 7 cents a page for public users of the Judiciary's Public Access to Court Electronic Records system (PACER). The Judiciary is in its ninth year of offering various electronic access services. Registering more than 7 million users a year, PACER provides legal, business, community and other interested parties direct, rapid and easy access to appellate slip opinions, argument calendars, case dockets, and other useful courthouse information. The current fee for the use of PACER is 60 cents per minute. The application of Internet technologies to this program may lower the operating costs of the PACER system, make court and case information more widely available, and offer the opportunity to add information and services to the public at a modest cost.

Since 1991, Congress has required the Judiciary to charge users a reasonable fee to reimburse the Judiciary for expenses incurred in providing these services. The revenue generated from the fees is used to fund the Judiciary's full range of electronic public access services. The funds also provide each court with hardware and software to support public access services.

Courts may provide at no cost a variety of local court information, including local rules, court forms, news items, court calendars, opinions designated by the court for publication, and other information such as court hours, court location and telephone listings.

 

• Received and adopted the recommendations contained in the report entitled: Federal Death Penalty Cases: Recommendations Concerning the Cost and Quality of Defense Representation. The report addresses the cost, availability and quality of defense representation in federal death penalty cases and recommends steps that should be taken in order to keep expenditures in these cases within reasonable limits. It was prepared by the Subcommittee on Federal Death Penalty Cases of the Judicial Conference Committee on Defender Services.

In general, the subcommittee concluded that the judges assigned to federal death penalty cases have been appropriately conscious of the need to monitor and control defense costs. In the vast majority of cases, judges have been able to appoint well-qualified lawyers with sufficient experience in death penalty litigation.

The number of defendants charged with offenses punishable by death has gone from 12 in 1991 to 153 in 1997. The cost of defending death penalty cases is almost always greater than the cost of defending non-death penalty cases. Nevertheless, the subcommittee believes that additional cost-containment measures should be implemented. Among the recommendations contained in the 107 page report are:

 

• Courts should assure the appointment of highly qualified counsel whenever the defendant is charged with an offense punishable by death. The hourly rate authorized for compensation of counsel should remain high enough to attract a sufficient number of qualified attorneys.

• Courts should require lawyers to develop case budgets to ensure the most effective and economical use of resources. The Judicial Conference should develop guidelines for case budgeting and judges and lawyers should be trained in the budgeting process.

A copy of the report will be available on the U.S. Courts web site at www.uscourts.gov.

• Acted on numerous recommendations from the National Bankruptcy Review Commission (NBRC). The nine-member independent Commission studied issues and problems relating to the bankruptcy code and in October 1997 submitted a report containing more than 170 recommendations to Congress, the President, and the Chief Justice. Because some of the recommendations have a potential to impact on the workload and administration of the courts, they have been studied by relevant Conference committees. The following are among the recommendations addressed today by the Conference.

 

• Support establishment of a national filing system that would identify each bankruptcy case with a unique identifier, to the extent this can be done with proper regard for safeguarding the privacy of sensitive personal information.

• Oppose the creation of bankruptcy courts under Article III of the Constitution and the recommendation that at the completion of their 14 year terms, bankruptcy judges should be appointed to fill existing vacancies by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate.

• Support amendments to the Fair Credit Reporting Act that would require credit reporting agencies to report Chapter 13 filings (where the debtor attempts to repay all or a percentage of his or her debts pursuant to a plan of reorganization), differently from Chapter 7 (liquidation or "straight bankruptcy") filings.

 

 

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

 

September 1998

 

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
Judge Peter C. Dorsey

Second Circuit
District of Connecticut

 

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 Henry A. Politz
Judge William H. Barbour, Jr.
Fifth Circuit
Southern District of Mississippi
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 Pasco M. Bowman II
Judge James M. Rosenbaum
Eighth Circuit
District of Minnesota
Chief Judge Procter Hug, Jr.
Judge Lloyd D. George
Ninth Circuit
District of Nevada
Chief Judge Stephanie K. Seymour
Judge Ralph G. Thompson
Tenth Circuit
Western District of Oklahoma
Chief Judge Joseph W. Hatchett
Judge Wm. Terrell Hodges
Eleventh Circuit
Middle District of Florida
Chief Judge Harry T. Edwards
Chief Judge Norma H. Johnson
District of Columbia Circuit
District of Columbia
Chief Judge H. Robert Mayer Federal Circuit
Chief Judge Gregory W. Carman Court of International Trade

Conference Secretary:
Leonidas Ralph Mecham, Director
Administrative Office of U.S. Courts