This article is in the news archives --- for current news go to the Third Branch News.
110th Congress Acts on Judiciary Initiatives
As the first session of the 110th Congress ended, several bills of
interest to the Judiciary were either under consideration or on their
way to the White House for the President's signature. Action on pending
bills began again in the second session, which started in January 2008.
Court Security/Redaction Authority
The Court Security Improvement Act of 2007 became Public Law No. 110-177
on January 7, 2008. Congress passed the legislation in mid-December.
The new law improves the security of federal judges and the courts. It
requires the Director of the U.S. Marshals Service to consult on a
continuing basis with the Judicial Conference on court security; it
extends until 2011 the Judicial Conference's authority to redact
sensitive information from the financial disclosure reports of federal
judges; it allows judges to use their courthouse address instead of
their home address when applying for state-issued documentation, such as
driver's licenses; and it protects federal judges against the malicious
recording of fictitious liens by creating a new federal criminal
"The adequate security of federal judges and their families has been
a long-term issue and concern," said Administrative Office Director
James C. Duff. "This law makes much-needed improvements in the way in
which the federal Judiciary is protected. Our thanks go to Senate
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
(R-KY), Judiciary Committee Chair Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and
ranking minority member Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), along with
Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL), Edward Kennedy (D-MA), John Cornyn
(R-TX), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Charles Schumer (D-NY), and Susan Collins
(R-ME). In the House, we are especially grateful to Representative John
Conyers (D-MI), chair of the House Judiciary Committee; ranking minority
member Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX); and Subcommittee on Crime,
Terrorism, and Homeland Security chair, Representative Bobby Scott
(D-VA), and ranking member Representative Louis Gohmert (R-TX), for
The Court Security Improvement Act of 2007 contains additional provisions of interest to the Judiciary. Those provisions will:
- give magistrate judges Federal Employees Group Life Insurance
(FEGLI) coverage comparable to that of Article III judges. At the last
moment, FEGLI coverage for territorial and bankruptcy judges was struck
from the House version of the bill because of strict pay-as-you-go
budget rules that require an identified offset for this spending. The
Administrative Office will pursue immediately the "FEGLI fix" for
bankruptcy judges and territorial judges in the second session of the
- eliminate one judgeship for the Court of Appeals for the District of
Columbia and create one judgeship for the Court of Appeals for the
Ninth Circuit; and
- authorize senior judges who carry a 50 percent workload to
participate in court management proceedings such as the appointment of
court officers and magistrate judges, rulemaking, and other
Cameras in the Courtroom
In the first session of the 110th Congress, bills allowing broadcast
media coverage of court proceedings were introduced in both chambers.
In October 2007, the House Judiciary Committee amended and reported H.R.
2128, the Sunshine in the Courtroom Act of 2007. The bill would
authorize the presiding judge to permit the "photographing, electronic
recording, broadcasting, or televising to the public of any court
proceedings" in a federal appellate court (including the Supreme Court)
or a district court. Under the provisions of H.R. 2128, the face or
voice of witnesses could be obscured, and jurors could not be televised
in a court proceeding. The Judicial Conference would be able to
promulgate guidelines for judges on the management and administration of
cameras in the courtroom. The authority for camera coverage in the
district courts would sunset three years after enactment of the bill.
The House did not vote on the legislation before the session ended.
As the first session drew to a close, the Senate Judiciary Committee
considered a similar bill, S. 352. On December 6, 2007, the Committee
amended the bill, adopting some of the same changes as the House
Judiciary Committee. In addition, the Senate Judiciary Committee
reported S. 344, a camera coverage bill applicable only to the Supreme
Court. The bill would require the Court to permit television coverage of
all open sessions unless it decides, by majority vote, that allowing
such coverage would constitute a violation of the due process rights of
one or more parties.
The Judicial Conference strongly opposes H.R. 2128 and S. 352 because
they would permit the use of cameras in the federal trial courts and
change the present policy of allowing a court of appeals first to
determine whether to permit cameras in that circuit.
Federal judges received a 2.5 percent cost-of-living increase for FY
2008. (See chart on page 9.) In addition, progress was made toward
Congressional passage of federal judicial salary restoration
legislation. In his Year-End Report, Chief Justice Roberts thanked the
House and Senate leadership, as well as the President, for their
bipartisan support. Passage of a judges' pay bill remains a high
priority for the Judiciary in 2008.
Last session, in December 2007, the House Judiciary Committee reported
an amended version of H.R. 3753, the Judicial Salary Restoration Act of
2007 by a vote of 28 — 5. As amended, the bill would give federal judges
their first real pay raise since 1991, while repealing Section 140 of
P.L. 97 — 92 (which requires express congressional approval to permit
judges to receive a cost-of-living adjustment as provided annually under
the Ethics Reform Act of 1989) and authorizing future annual pay
adjustments at levels received by General Schedule employees. The bill
would also modify some retirement rules for judges.
Shortly after the House Judiciary Committee action, the Senate Judiciary
Committee began consideration of S. 1638, its version of the Judicial
Salary Restoration bill. The Committee adopted the same pay levels,
cost-of-living, and service provisions as the House bill, as well as
additional amendments. The bill was reported out of committee in the
early weeks of the second session.