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May 2007

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


Conference Recommends Changes in Administration, Procedure to Improve Judicial Efficiency

A package of legislative proposals to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of federal court operations has been sent to Congress by the Judicial Conference under the rubrics of the “Civil Judicial Procedure, Administration, and Technical Amendments Act of 2007,” and the “Criminal Judicial Procedure, Administration, and Technical Amendments Act of 2007.”

Altogether, there are 34 civil and criminal provisions in the proposed legislation that the Conference hopes will be introduced as legislation in the 110th Congress. The provisions would enhance the administration of the justice system, many of them by making technical or conforming changes to existing law.

Among the hoped-for improvements under the proposed Criminal Judicial Procedure, Administration, and Technical Amendments Act of 2007:

  • an automatic increase in the case compensation maximums for representation of Criminal Justice Act defendants in non-capital cases by the same percentage as any increases in the hourly compensation rate.

  • authorization of intermittent confinement as a condition of supervised release, with certain limitations, as is now possible as a condition of probation; and provision for an upward adjustment of the supervised release term for offenders with extensive criminal histories.

  • treatment of most fines and orders of restitution in criminal offenses as civil debts, payable immediately and collectable by the Department of Justice or the victim. This change would expand debt collection techniques, maximize collection levels, and minimize the need for courts to intervene repeatedly to adjust payment schedules. Under a separate provision, judges also would be authorized to order restitution be paid to a broader category of victims for more types of damages.

  • authorization of the Director of the Administrative Office to provide to pretrial defendants and post-conviction offenders treatment and services, such as equipment and emergency housing, corrective and preventative guidance and training, and other services reasonably necessary to protect the public, ensure defendants appear in court as required, and promote the successful re-entry of offenders into the community.

  • appointment of a federal public defender as a non-voting member to the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

  • restoration of the requirement that a minimum of three federal judges be members of the Sentencing Commission.

  • authorization for the 11-member Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to sit en banc.

  • revision of the federal anti-profiteering statute to provide that, as a condition of probation and supervised release, a defendant convicted of a felony or misdemeanor that is a crime of violence may not receive any proceeds derived from that offense.

  • restoration of broad designation authority to the Bureau of Prisons in the assignment of prisoners to residential re-entry centers.

Among the improvements recommended in the proposed Civil Judicial Procedure, Administration, and Technical Amendments Act of 2007:

  • reduction in the amount of time—from 30 to five days—a petit juror is required to serve before becoming eligible for the supplemental daily fee.

  • repeal of the present exemption or bar from jury service for members of fire and police departments and public officers, unless they request to be excused.

  • the addition of magistrate judges to those judges in active service who may, by statute, be invited to attend circuit judicial conferences.

  • authorization for the Southern District of Iowa’s Western division to hold civil trials, upon consent of the parties, in nearby Omaha, Nebraska.