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Judicial Conference Receives Long Range Plan

Contact: David Sellers, 202-502-2600

The Judicial Conference of the United States today received from its Committee on Long Range Planning the first comprehensive long range plan in the history of the federal Judiciary.

Acting at its semiannual meeting in Washington, the Conference also voted to approve specific recommendations and implement strategies in the proposed plan, with the exception of those items that Conference members may ask by April 11, 1995, to have referred to appropriate committees for additional study and report to the September 1995 session of the Conference.

The plan, which contains 101 different recommendations and 77 implementation strategies, follows more than three years of study and consultation with interested parties in all three branches of government, lawyers, and many others who have interest in the federal courts. Three public hearings were conducted late last year to solicit comment on a draft of the plan.

The long range plan is organized in chapters addressing the central elements of the federal courts' mission and function, including jurisdiction, adjudicative structure and procedure, internal governance, judicial and other resources, and the broader society in which the courts operate. Within each area, the plan makes recommendations and, where appropriate, provides strategies for implementation.

The plan is premised on a future in which the federal courts conserve the core values that exist today-the rule of law, equal justice, judicial independence, limited jurisdiction, excellence, and accountability-while also maintaining the flexibility to respond to new challenges. The plan also acknowledges that a different, much less desirable, future looms if current workload trends continue and incremental reforms are unsuccessful. These alternative outlooks, which emphasize the importance of a farsighted approach to policy-making, provide a unifying framework for the plan.

The nine judges who serve on the Long Range Planning Committee have a total of 170 years of combined judicial experience. The committee is chaired by Judge Otto R. Skopil, Jr. (9th Cir.)

In other action, the Conference:

  • Approved a recommendation of its Executive Committee stating that, "The Judicial Conference clarifies that the Court Administration and Case Management Committee is not prohibited from proposing pilot programs or conducting other studies necessary to the making of further recommendations on cameras in the courtroom in civil cases which differ from those disapproved by the Judicial Conference at its September 1994 session."

    At its September 1994 session, the Conference had declined to approve an expanded use of cameras in the courtroom in civil proceedings. From July 1, 1991, until December 31, 1994, two courts of appeals and six district courts participated in a Conference pilot, which permitted photographic, electronic recording, or live broadcast of civil proceedings only.

    In December 1994, the court administration committee issued the following statement: "After careful consideration of all materials and proposals and a thorough discussion, the Committee on Court Administration and Case Management determined, in light of the action taken in September by the Judicial Conference of the United States, that it would make no further recommendations regarding cameras in the federal courts."
  • Approved an advisory note to the fee schedule with respect to granting exemptions from electronic public access fees. The note will state, in part, that courts may exempt persons or classes of persons from the fees in order to avoid unreasonable burdens and to promote public access to such information. Exemptions should be granted as the exception, not the rule. The exemption language is intended to accommodate those users who might otherwise not have access to the information in electronic form.

    Because of the increase in the number of courts offering electronic access to court data, the Conference also voted to reduce the $1 per minute fee for users to 75 cents per minute. In the Judiciary's 1990 appropriations act, Congress directed the Conference to prescribe reasonable fees for the electronic access to court data. The funds collected are to offset the cost of administering the electronic access system.
  • Agreed to adopt a policy to allow for the waiver for victims of natural disasters of certain miscellaneous fees associated with obtaining copies of discharge orders and other documents required by the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) in applying for emergency aid.

    Waivers of certain bankruptcy fees were granted in August 1993 for Midwest flood victims and in August 1994 for Southeast flood victims. While the Judiciary historically has been reluctant to grant exceptions to the collection of fees, the circumstances arising from natural disasters are so unusual that the exemptions granted have had minimal financial impact on the Judiciary
  • Voted to delete language contained in a proposed amendment to Rule 26(c) that would have allowed courts to enter protective orders on stipulation of the parties. Subsequently the Conference voted to recommit for further consideration the proposed amendment to Rule 26(c) to the Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure.
  • Adopted a resolution stating that invidious discrimination has no place in the federal Judiciary and encouraging the circuit judicial councils to study whether bias exists in the federal courts based on gender, race or other invidious discrimination, and whether additional educational programs are necessary.

    The Conference previously had adopted resolutions encouraging each circuit to sensitize judges, supporting personnel, and attorneys to concerns of bias and the extent to which bias may affect litigants, witnesses, attorneys, and all those who work in the Judicial Branch. All circuits have addressed this issue in some fashion.

The Judicial Conference of the United States is the principal policy-making body for the federal court system. It is chaired by the Chief Justice of the United States and composed of the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, the chief judges of the other 12 federal appeals courts, a district judge from each of the 12 geographic circuits, and the chief judge of the Court of International Trade. The Conference meets twice a year to consider administrative and policy issues affecting the court system and to make recommendations to Congress concerning legislation involving the Judicial Branch. A list of the members of the Conference follows this news release.

Judicial Conference of the United States
March 1995

Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, Presiding

Chief Judge Juan R. Torruella, First Circuit
Chief Judge Joseph L. Tauro, District of Massachusetts

Chief Judge Jon O. Newman, Second Circuit
Judge Charles L. Brieant, Southern District of New York

Chief Judge Dolores K. Sloviter, Third Circuit
Chief Judge Edward N. Cahn, Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Chief Judge Sam J. Ervin, III, Fourth Circuit
Judge W. Earl Britt, Eastern District of North Carolina

Chief Judge Henry A. Politz, Fifth Circuit
Chief Judge Morey L. Sear, Eastern District of Louisiana

Chief Judge Gilbert S. Merritt, Sixth Circuit
Chief Judge John D. Holschuh, Southern District of Ohio

Chief Judge Richard A. Posner, Seventh Circuit
Chief Judge Michael M. Mihm, Central District of Illinois

Chief Judge Richard S. Arnold, Eighth Circuit
Judge Donald E. O'Brien, Northern District of Iowa

Chief Judge J. Clifford Wallace, Ninth Circuit
Chief Judge William M. Byrne, Jr. , Central District of California

Chief Judge Stephanie K. Seymour, Tenth Circuit
Judge Clarence A. Brimmer, District of Wyoming

Chief Judge Gerald B. Tjoflat, Eleventh Circuit
Judge Wm. Terrell Hodges, Middle District of Florida

Chief Judge Harry T. Edwards, District of Columbia Circuit
Chief Judge John Garrett Penn, District of Columbia

Chief Judge Glenn L. Archer, Jr. , Federal Circuit

Chief Judge Dominick L. DiCarlo, Court of International Trade

Conference Secretary: L. Ralph Mecham, Director, Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts

Related Topics: Judicial Conference of the United States