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May 2006

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This article is in the news archives --- for current news go to the Third Branch News.


New Director of the Administrative Office Named

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., has named James C. Duff as the director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AO). The Chief Justice made the announcement and introduced Duff to employees on April 20, at the AO's headquarters in the Thurgood Marshall Federal Judiciary Building in Washington, DC. Standing with Duff and the Chief Justice was Leonidas Ralph Mecham, the current director of the AO who Duff will succeed. Mecham will retire this summer after nearly 21 years as director.

Duff, who has over 30 years of legislative, litigation, and management experience in Washington, DC, comes to the position from the Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell, and Berkowitz law firm, where he has served as the managing partner of its Washington, DC office for six years.

"I look forward to good working relations with the other two branches of government to effectuate what Justice Jackson and later Chief Justice Rehnquist referred to as the 'separate but interdependent' nature of the branches of our government," Duff said in remarks delivered to AO employees. "Those of you who have labored here for years know firsthand how interdependent our branches are, particularly those of you who work on the Judiciary's budget."

The director of the AO serves as the chief administrative officer of the federal courts under the direction and supervision of the Judicial Conference of the United States, the principal policy-making body for the federal court system.

Duff will be responsible for the management of the AO with approximately 900 employees, and for providing legal counsel to the Judiciary and administrative support to approximately 2,000 judicial officers and 30,000 court employees. Duff will serve as advocate and liaison for the judicial branch in its relations with Congress, including working with Congressional committees to secure the Judiciary's annual appropriation. He also will be responsible for executing the Judiciary's $6 billion dollar annual budget.

In announcing his selection, the Chief Justice noted, "Jim Duff is uniquely qualified to lead the Administrative Office at this critical time. He has proven himself to be a dedicated public servant on behalf of the Judiciary. I am delighted that he has agreed to take on this responsibility and certain that he will do an excellent job."

Duff has served under two other Chief Justices. He was Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist's administrative assistant from 1996-2000, serving as the chief of staff at the Supreme Court and as liaison to the other two branches of government on behalf of the Chief Justice. He began his career as an office and courtroom assistant to Chief Justice Warren E. Burger from 1975-1979, while attending law school.

After graduating from the Georgetown University Law Center in 1981, Duff became an associate and then a partner at Clifford & Warnke. There his practice focused on antitrust litigation and legislative matters until 1991 when most of the firm merged with Howrey & Simon. He continued with Howrey & Simon until 1996 when Chief Justice Rehnquist appointed him to be his administrative assistant. He joined Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell, and Berkowitz in 2000, where he has represented clients in various legislative, corporate, and litigation matters. His clients have included the Federal Judges Association, the University of Kentucky, the NCAA, and The Freedom Forum and Newseum, Inc.

Duff graduated from the University of Kentucky Honors Program in 1975 where he was Phi Beta Kappa, and received a J.D. from the Georgetown Law Center in 1981. He has taught Constitutional Law at Georgetown University since 1999, and has served on several boards, including the Capital Hospice Foundation, the Supreme Court Historical Society, and the Lawyers' Committee of the National Center for State Courts. Chief Justice Rehnquist appointed him to chair the Supreme Court Fellows Commission in 2005.