Federal judges and court staff are essential to the mission and function of the courts. The Judiciary, like any other institution, cannot accomplish its mission without the effective and efficient distribution and use of scarce resources.
The Federal Bench
Sufficient judicial resources are essential to a functional federal court system. A Judiciary equipped with an adequate number and distribution of judgeships resolves disputes in a more efficient and timely manner.
Article III Vacancies, Nominations, and Confirmations
As of September 1, 2013, there were 92 Article III judgeship vacancies: 17 in the courts of appeals (of which 7 were “judicial emergencies” as defined by Judicial Conference policy), and 75 in the district courts (of which 29 were judicial emergencies). In the first session of the 113th Congress, 45 Article III circuit and district judges were confirmed.
Visiting Judges (Intercircuit Assignments)
The Judiciary uses intercircuit and intracircuit assignments of Article III judges to provide short-term assistance to courts with overwhelming caseloads. In the appellate courts, for the 12-month period ending September 30, 2013, visiting judges participated in 3,970 appeals closed after oral hearing or submission on briefs. In the district courts, for that same 12-month period, visiting judges closed 1,732 civil cases, and criminal cases involving 1,723 criminal defendants. During the same period, the Committee on Intercircuit Assignments recommended, and the Chief Justice approved, 198 intercircuit assignments.
Impact of Mega Bankruptcy Cases on Workload
In June 2013, the Bankruptcy Committee asked the AO and the FJC to study the impact of mega bankruptcy cases and super-mega bankruptcy cases on bankruptcy courts’ workloads. The study will enhance the data on which bankruptcy judgeship requests are assessed.
International Delegations Briefed on the Rule of Law
The AO supports the jurisdictional mandate from the Judicial Conference to the Committee on International Judicial Relations to "coordinate the federal Judiciary's relationship with foreign judiciaries and with official and unofficial agencies and organizations interested in international judicial relations, and the establishment and expansion of the rule of law and the administration of justice."
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In June, a delegation of judges and judicial administrators from Turkey visited the AO to learn more about the federal Judiciary. In fiscal year 2013, 51 foreign delegations—706 visitors—received substantive briefings coordinated on key aspects of the federal judicial system.
During fiscal year 2013, 51 foreign delegations consisting of 706 visitors received substantive briefings coordinated by AO staff on key aspects of the federal judicial system, including the structure, operation, and administration of the federal courts, the Judicial Conference, the courts’ interactions with the media and general public, the rule-making process, and the federal judicial appointment process. Twenty-eight of the delegations, consisting of 166 international judges and court officials from Egypt, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine, traveled to the United States through the Open World Leadership Center at the Library of Congress. The Open World visitors received a one-day orientation briefing at the AO before traveling to cities throughout the United States where they were hosted by federal judges and community leaders for week-long rule of law programs focusing on the judicial system and democratic institutions in the United States.
OSCAR Online System for Clerkship Application and Review
OSCAR is the Judiciary’s single, centralized system for law clerk and staff attorney recruitment—a service for federal judges and appellate staff attorney offices and those hoping to work for them.
OSCAR De-links from the Hiring Plan
Based on a number of judges no longer participating in the Federal Law Clerk Hiring Plan (Hiring Plan) and feedback from the law schools, the OSCAR Working Group judges recommended de-linking OSCAR from the Hiring Plan. As of November 4, 2013, the Administrative Office opened OSCAR to second-year law school students and now releases their applications at the time of submission, rather than holding them until a specified date.
The OSCAR Working Group judges developed a list of Federal Law Clerk Hiring Best Practices. These changes support a transparent recruitment process in law clerk hiring, which is important to judges, law schools, and applicants alike.
New Online Training Posted
New online training for judges, chambers staff, staff attorneys offices, court unit administrators and law schools using OSCAR were posted to the web, including judge-to-judge training on maintaining a judge profile, posting positions, and managing applications. OSCAR users also could view new informational webinars, “An Informational Update on the 2013 Hiring Season” and “A Sneak Preview to OSCAR Version 7.”
OSCAR Version 7 Released
OSCAR Version 7 system software was released this year to all users. The software allows expanded judicial profiles with more information for applicants and law schools on a judge’s hiring preferences. Version 7 improvements also enhanced search and sort capabilities. As this year’s law clerk hiring period approached on June 28, the OSCAR help desk responded to 1,839 inquiries in June and a total of 8,288 inquiries for FY 2013, which represented a 104 percent increase from FY 2012. Version 7 implementation and changes in Hiring Plan policy led to the increase. Judges listed 31 new law clerk position postings between June 28 and July 1, 2013.
Support to the Judicial Conference
Pursuant to statute, the Judicial Conference of the United States, the national policy-making body for the federal court system, has convened for more than 90 years. A network of committees supports the work of the Conference and provides the Conference with recommendations for action in their individual subject areas.
In fiscal year 2013, the Judicial Conference met at the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on March 12 and September 17, 2013.
Judicial Conference Committee Chairs Named, Terms Extended
The Judicial Conference operates through a network of committees, which review issues within their established jurisdictions and make policy recommendations to the Conference.
Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr., named five new Judicial Conference committee chairs whose terms began October 1, 2012, and extended the terms of three current committee chairs.
- Judge Lawrence L. Piersol (D. S.D.), succeeded Judge David A. Katz (N.D. Ohio) as chair of the Committee on Audits and Administrative Office Accountability;
- Judge Catherine C. Blake (D. Md.), succeeded Judge Claire V. Eagan (N.D. Okla.) as chair of the Committee on Defender Services;
- Judge Joel A. Pisano (D. N.J.), succeeded Judge George H. King (C.D. Cal.) as chair of the Committee on the Administration of the Magistrate Judges System;
- Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton (6th Cir.), succeeded Judge Mark R. Kravitz (D. Conn.) as chair of the Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure; and
- Judge Steven M. Colloton (8th Cir.), succeeded Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton (6th Cir.) as chair of the Advisory Committee on Appellate Rules.
The committee chairs serving an extended term of one year were:
- Judge Julie A. Robinson (D. Kan.), as chair of the Committee on Court Administration and Case Management;
- Judge Rosemary M. Collyer (D. D.C.), as chair of the Committee on Information Technology; and
- Judge Michael A. Ponsor (D. Mass.), as chair of the Committee on Space and Facilities.
Five new Judicial Conference committee chairs began their terms on October 1, 2013, and the terms of four current Conference committee chairs were extended.
- Judge Danny C. Reeves succeeded Chief Judge Joy Flowers Conti (W.D. Pa.) as chair of the Committee on the Administration of the Bankruptcy System;
- Judge Irene M. Keeley (N.D. W.Va.) succeeded Judge Robert Holmes Bell (W.D. Mich.) as chair of the Committee on Criminal Law;
- Judge Thomas M. Hardiman (3rd Cir.) succeeded Judge Rosemary M. Collyer (D. D.C.) as chair of the Committee on Information Technology;
- Judge Royce C. Lamberth (D. D.C.) succeeded Judge J. Frederick Motz (D. Md.) as chair of the Committee on Intercircuit Assignments.
- Judge D. Brooks Smith (3rd Cir.) succeeded Judge Michael A. Ponsor (D. Mass.) as chair of the Committee on Space and Facilities.
The terms of the following chairs were extended by the Chief Justice for one year:
- Judge Julie A. Robinson (D. Kan.), chair of the Committee on Court Administration and Case Management;
- Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain (9th Cir.), chair of the Committee on International Judicial Relations;
- Bankruptcy Judge Eugene R. Wedoff (N.D. Ill.), chair of the Advisory Committee on Bankruptcy Rules; and
- Chief Judge Sidney A. Fitzwater (N.D. Tex.), chair of the Advisory Committee on Evidence Rules.
The Strategic Plan for the Federal Judiciary states: “The Judiciary can only meet future workload demands if it can continue to attract, develop, and retain highly skilled and competent judges and staff.” While budgetary constraints impacted available training and key resources, opportunities remained available.
Director’s Leadership Program
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David Carlson architect/project manager for the Circuit Executive Office, Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and Sonia Hogeland, facilities design project manager for the District Court for the Western District of Texas, were selected as the 2013 Director’s Leadership Program Residents.
The Director’s Leadership Program brings highly qualified senior and mid-level court and federal public defender organization staff members to the Administrative Office for up to one year to perform critical work on national initiatives and high-priority projects. Program participants, known as “Residents,” receive outstanding educational opportunities, including exposure to the workings of the Judicial Conference, to enhance their experience and credentials.
David Carlson architect/project Manager for the Circuit Executive Office, Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and Sonia Hogeland, facilities design project manager for the District Court for the Western District of Texas, were selected as the 2013 Director’s Leadership Program Residents. Both joined the Facilities and Security Office to work on the Integrated Workplace Initiative (IWI) as part of the Judiciary’s Space Footprint Reduction initiative.
Benefits and Retirement Education
In 2010, the AO began offering individual retirement counseling for those within three years of full retirement eligibility or mandatory separation. In 2013, this initiative was expanded to include law enforcement officers who are within five years of their first retirement eligibility date (age 50 with 20 years of service). AO staff have counseled over 3,800 employees either in person or via teleconference—over 780 in FY 2013 alone—or 82 percent of employees within three years of retirement eligibility.
Benefit for Life Hour Webinars
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Webinars cover a wide range of topics. This year, two special programs were conducted on the impact the government shutdown had on benefits.
Benefit and retirement financial education for employees is provided by the AO through weekly Benefit for Life Hour webinars. These live sessions allow attendees to ask questions, but also are recorded so employees may watch when it fits their schedule. In FY 2013, two special webinar programs were conducted on the impact of a government shutdown on benefits. Other webinar topics have included an overview of the benefits and retirement programs, planning for the unexpected, estate planning, Social Security, Medicare, the Thrift Savings Plan, and the Employee Assistance Program.
Since November 2011, over 6,350 judiciary employees have participated in a live session and over 5,660 employees have viewed one of the recorded sessions, with over 3,300 participating in a session in FY 2013.
Building Diversity in the Courts
Two initiatives focus on diversifying the Judiciary workforce. The first, the Judiciary Diversity Recruiting and Outreach Program, puts courts in touch with a diverse pool of students, graduates, and other professionals and highlights the Judiciary as a competitive employer. The program has facilitated court participation in 77 career fairs and legal recruiting events, resulting in direct contact with 7,000 students in 27 districts in all circuits.
The program also builds a strategic network of partnerships with external organizations such as the Congressional Caucuses (Black, Asian, and Hispanic), Council on Legal Education Opportunity, Minority Corporate Counsel Association, National Association for Legal Career Professionals, and the American Bar Association.
The second initiative, now entering its fourth year, is the partnership between the Judicial Conference Committee on Judicial Resources (JRC) and the Just the Beginning Foundation (JTBF). This has been a highly successful diversity pipeline program: for the summer of 2013, 52 judges hired 61 minority law students as judicial interns. In the three years since the JRC-JTBF Partnership, nine former interns have been offered post-graduate clerkships.