Annual Report 2015
We have had a very busy and productive year at the Administrative Office (AO). The fact that staff time was not consumed by bracing for a government shutdown for the first time in several years enabled us instead to focus on traditional support to the courts and public, and to develop program and service improvements. This report describes many of those achievements.
We set a record in 2015 by obtaining $1 billion for the General Services Administration for eight of our most needed courthouse projects. The previous high was $750 million in 2010. Our budget success reflects the credibility we have established with Congressional appropriators who know that the judicial branch asks only for the funds we need and spends the money we receive wisely. It is clear that since sequestration, Congress has treated the Judiciary as a funding priority, and that is in large part because of our successful record of cost containment.
Since 2008, the Judiciary has employed an Asset Management Planning process as a comprehensive facility-planning tool designed to identify the most urgent space needs. Only projects that receive the highest urgency score are placed on the Courthouse Project Priorities List. We are grateful to Congress for recognizing the integrity of the Judiciary’s Asset Management Planning process, while also acknowledging that despite our aggressive courthouse cost-saving program, sometimes there is no alternative to courthouse construction.
Another example of our cost-containment initiative is the goal established by the Judicial Conference, and its Space and Facilities Committee, for each circuit to reduce its existing overall space inventory by 3 percent no later than the end of fiscal year 2018. This reduction is necessary to control rent we pay to GSA, which threatens to consume more of our budget. We are about half way toward reaching that goal.
The AO is partnering with courts on several aspects of the space-reduction effort, including the Integrated Workplace Initiative, which is reducing Judiciary space by utilizing technology to enable today's more mobile workforce to share work stations and reconfigure office space.
I will highlight two additional areas on which we focused this year:
- Our robust and reliable system of auditing of and accounting for our use of public funds; and
- Improving the security of the Judiciary’s information technology program.
The AO and independent certified public accountants have conducted court audits for many years, in addition to conducting ongoing program reviews and assessments of court units, programs, and functions. The Judicial Conference Committee on Audits and Administrative Office Accountability occupies a leadership role in this area and regularly is briefed on activities. In 2015, we continued to enhance accountability tools, including integrating our Internal Control Evaluation system into our centralized accounting system and customizing for Federal Public Defenders’ use an internal-controls assessment tool that is currently available to all courts.
Moreover, in addition to financial auditing, each circuit judicial council has a number of statutory responsibilities in the area of accountability that include authority relating to judicial conduct and disability matters. Judicial misconduct issues are difficult, challenging, and often unpleasant to confront, but our record in these areas is sound, as demonstrated by activities in the past year.
Of course, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) conducts additional studies of the Judiciary. In fiscal year 2015, the GAO conducted 14 studies involving our branch.
Also central to the successful operation of the Judiciary is a strong and secure information technology program. Large scale cyberattacks in both the private and public sector have caused us to redouble our security enhancement and awareness efforts. We initiated increased efforts with the Judicial Conference Information Technology Committee and local courts to strengthen the integrity of our systems in 2015. Our IT systems are essential to the Judiciary’s work. We each have responsibility for the security of not only our own PC, but also the various systems we access. Cybersecurity will continue to be an area of great emphasis in the coming year.
There have been many other major developments this past year, including:
- Probation offices nationwide prepared to receive the single largest caseload increase in the system’s 90-year history. Close to 6,000 inmates were released from prison in late October pursuant to amendments to the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines that reduced the custody range for certain drug offenses.
- The next generation of our Case Management/Electronic Case Filing system continued to be rolled out and is either live or being piloted in select appellate, district and bankruptcy courts. When fully deployed, filers, judges and court staff will benefit from several enhancements.
- The Criminal Justice Act eVoucher system—which allows for electronic submission, management, and approval of CJA vouchers submitted by lawyers who provide counsel to indigents—has been deployed to all courts, and about half already are using this valuable tool.
- Nearly all U.S. district courts are using eJuror, a public portal that allows jurors to answer qualification questionnaires and summons information online. In addition, a pilot program in four district courts provides a secure kiosk where jurors can check in when they report for jury duty.
- The Strategic Plan for the Federal Judiciary was updated and improved by the Judicial Conference.
These and many other achievements are discussed in greater detail in this report.
I appreciate the increasing number of projects that are accomplished through a court-AO partnership. This cooperative approach to our work will not only enable us to work in a more cost-efficient manner, it also will allow us to target and meet specific court needs more accurately.
I am proud of our successes in 2015 and appreciate the honor of serving as Director of the Administrative Office. My role is particularly rewarding because of the outstanding work judges, court, and AO staff perform daily to support our judicial system and the public it so effectively serves.