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February 2009

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


A Wrap-Up of the 110th Congress

During the 110th Congress, several pieces of legislation reflecting Judicial Conference positions were enacted.

Among the legislative achievements of the first session of the 110th Congress were the passage of the Court Security Improvement Act of 2007, Pub. L. 110-177, creating a criminal penalty for filing false liens against the property of a federal judge and requiring the U.S. Marshals Service to consult with the Judicial Conference on matters relating to court security, among other provisions; and the Judicial Disclosure Responsibility Act, Pub. L. 110-24, authorizing the Judicial Conference to redact personal and sensitive information from financial disclosure reports where the release of that information could endanger the filer or a member of the filer’s family.

Certain legislation opposed by the Judicial Conference failed to pass in the 110th Congress, including bills imposing cameras in federal courts.

Among the bills enacted into law during the second session of the 110th Congress were:

Pub. L. No. 110-199 (H.R. 1593)—
The Second Chance Act, which provides assistance to state and local government to help persons leaving prisons and re-entering the community. The new law expands the authority of the Director of the Administrative Office with respect to contracting for certain re-entry services for persons released from federal custody. Signed into law on April 9, 2008.

Pub. L. No. 110-315 (H.R. 4137)—
The Act extends to federal defenders the opportunity to participate in a Perkins loan cancellation program that has been available to prosecutors. Included in that law is the John R. Justice Prosecutors and Defenders Incentive Act of 2008, which authorizes a student loan repayment program for federal defenders, as well as for state and local prosecutors and defenders. Signed into law on August 14, 2008.

Pub. L. No. 110-322 (S. 2450)—
The Act creates a new Federal Rule of Evidence, Rule 502, regarding disclosure of privileged or protected material, that limits unintentional waivers of the attorney-client privilege and work-product protection to facilitate discovery and reduce its costs. This is the first rule of evidence relating to privilege that Congress has enacted in the 30 years since the Rules Enabling Act was passed. Congress passed Rule 502 in the exact form proposed by the Judicial Conference. Signed into law on September 19, 2008.

Pub. L. No. 110-406 (S. 3569)—
Judicial Administration and Technical Amendments Act of 2008. The bill contains 18 provisions based on recommendations of the Judicial Conference to improve court administration. Provisions in the Act establish a mechanism to increase 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 rates; clarify the availability of intermittent confinement and community confinement as possible conditions of supervised release; authorize the Director of the Administrative Office to provide goods and services to pretrial defendants and clarify similar authority for post-conviction offenders; and restore a minimum of three judges as members of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, among others. Five provisions made the most substantive changes to the Jury Selection and Service Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1861, et. seq., in 20 years. These provisions affect attendance fees, jury summonses, jury wheels, penalties affecting jury service, and strengthen a juror’s right to serve without retaliation. Signed into law on October 13, 2008.