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How Will the Judiciary Face Future Challenges?
Judge Charles Breyer was instrumental in developing the Judiciary’s new Strategic Plan and now has been tapped to be the Judiciary’s planning coordinator. He was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in 1997.
What led to the development of the new Strategic Plan for the Federal Judiciary?
In 2008 the Executive Committee looked at the Judicial Conference’s approach to long-range planning and saw the need to enhance how the Conference and its committees address cross-cutting issues. The Executive Committee believes that Judicial Conference committees have done an excellent job of identifying and addressing issues within their areas of responsibility. But sometimes broader issues are harder to address. Also, the existing plan, the Long Range Plan for the Federal Courts, was approved 15 years ago. Some of the issues it addresses are still relevant, but others reflect concerns that were particular to the early 1990s.
Ultimately, the Executive Committee decided to consider a new approach.
In August 2008, with the Chief Justice’s permission, the Executive Committee formed the Ad Hoc Advisory Committee on Judiciary Planning, and asked the group to develop a new planning approach and a new strategic plan. The Executive Committee asked that the approach to planning be national in scope, cross-cutting, and sustainable. They did not want us to develop a document that would just collect dust.
At first, the Ad Hoc Advisory Committee included only ten members—four Executive Committee members and six committee chairs. We soon found that additional perspectives were needed, and ultimately the committee grew to 17 members, including some Executive Committee members and other current and former committee chairs. We were also very fortunate to have two circuit executives and a district clerk of court as part of our committee. One of the most important aspects of our job was to define the scope and organization of the plan. For the content of the plan, we worked very hard to incorporate ideas from all Judicial Conference committees.
How were you involved in its development?
I had been a member of the Executive Committee, and the Committee’s long-range planning coordinator, since 2006. In that role, I served as chair of the Ad Hoc Advisory Committee.
The development of the Strategic Plan and the proposed approach to planning was a collaborative effort. The Ad Hoc Advisory Committee reached out to all Conference committees, circuit judicial councils, chief judges, and others for input. I am very grateful for the participation of those who provided comments and insights during the Strategic Plan’s development.
What are some of the issues that this plan seeks to address?
Well, the whole plan is about how the Judiciary can face future challenges while at the same time preserving certain qualities or attributes that are so important to us—equal justice under law, independence, accountability, excellence. The plan also is very public oriented, and includes sections about managing public resources, enhancing access, and promoting trust and confidence in the judicial process.
The development of the Strategic Plan and the proposed approach to planning was a collaborative effort. The Ad Hoc Advisory Committee reached out to all Conference committees, circuit judicial councils, chief judges, and others for input.
Does the Strategic Plan represent a departure or change in direction from established Judicial Conference goals?
This plan represents more of a change in approach than a change in direction. It includes goals that are ambitious, but consistent with existing Judicial Conference policies. This plan represents change in that it encourages collaborative approaches to issues facing the Judiciary. This is a matter of emphasis, as courts, Conference committees, circuit judicial councils, the Administrative Office, and others have a long history of working together to address Judiciary issues. But because the Judiciary is highly decentralized, we need to work hard to make sure our efforts are not fragmented, and I think a shared statement of our values and goals, and formal mechanisms to coordinate our efforts, are necessary.
Does this replace the Long Range Plan for the Federal Courts that was developed in 1995?
It supersedes the 1995 Long Range Plan as the strategic plan for the Judicial Conference and its committees, but there was no across-the-board rescission of the recommendations and strategies in the earlier plan.
The scope of the new strategic plan is much different from that of the 1995 plan, and many of the earlier plan’s recommendations and implementation strategies continue to represent Conference policy. For example, the earlier plan included recommendations about Judiciary governance and the structure of courts that the new plan does not address, but most of them still represent Judiciary policy.
How will Judicial Conference committees use the plan? Who else might use the plan?
Judicial Conference committees are central to the implementation of the Strategic Plan, and will bear much of the responsibility for its implementation. For a long time, the Conference approach to planning has been committee based, and this element has been preserved.
Conference committees will use this plan as a resource for committee planning, and will refer to it when they consider policy changes relating to the administration of justice. Committees will also use the plan to identify new projects and studies to take on that will help achieve the plan’s goals.
Circuit judicial councils also have significant responsibilities for Judiciary governance, and their support for the implementation of the plan’s strategies and goals will be needed. This plan also will shape the work of national organizations like the Administrative Office. The Strategic Plan also can be a valuable resource for planning efforts at the circuit and district level. There are regional and local aspects to each of the plan’s seven issues, many of which could be analyzed and discussed as part of individual planning efforts.
Circuit judicial councils also have significant responsibilities for Judiciary governance, and their support for the implementation of the plan’s strategies and goals will be needed.
Will progress in accomplishing the plan’s goals be measured?
The Executive Committee recognized the importance of measurement in developing an approach to planning. As part of the approach, the Judicial Conference approved an Executive Committee recommendation that, for every goal in the Strategic Plan, a mechanism to assess the Judiciary’s progress will be developed. Qualitative assessments will be a component of this process, as some of the goals in the plan do not lend themselves to quantitative measurement.
How does the plan affect the public and people who use the federal court system?
The Strategic Plan for the Federal Judiciary addresses several topics relating to jurors, litigants, and the public. A significant portion of the plan is devoted to efforts to improve the accessibility, timeliness, and efficiency of the federal Judiciary. Among others, the plan includes goals to reduce delay and unnecessary costs to litigants; to ensure well-qualified representation of criminal defendants; to make the federal Judiciary more open, accessible, and secure for those who participate in the judicial process; and to improve the experience of jurors.
The Executive Committee has named you the Judiciary planning coordinator. What are your responsibilities?
As it has been for many years, the Executive Committee will continue to be responsible for facilitating and coordinating the planning efforts of the Judicial Conference and its committees. I will serve as a resource for the Executive Committee on matters relating to the implementation of the Strategic Plan. After consulting with Conference committees, circuit judicial councils, and others, I will report to the Executive Committee on efforts to accomplish the plan’s strategies and goals.
The Strategic Plan for the Federal Judiciary
The strategies and goals in the Judiciary’s Strategic Plan are organized around several challenges to:
- Provide justice in a more effective manner to meet new and increasing demands.
- Manage resources and programs in an effective and efficient manner that reflects workload variances and funding realities.
- Support a lifetime of service for federal judges.
- Attract and retain a highly competent and diverse complement of Judiciary staff, while developing the next generation of Judiciary leaders.
- Develop national technology systems while fostering the development of creative approaches and solutions at the local level.
- Remain comprehensible, accessible, and affordable for people who participate in the judicial process, while responding to demographic and socioeconomic changes.
- Develop and sustain effective relationships with Congress and the Executive Branch, yet preserve appropriate autonomy in Judiciary governance, management, and decision making.
- Promote public trust and confidence in the federal courts, in a manner consistent with the Judiciary’s role.
Read the complete Strategic Plan at www.uscourts.gov/publications.