Communications - Annual Report 2011
The Administrative Office relies on web technology and tools to educate, inform, and engage users. With that in mind, the AO continuously upgrades and improves its websites.
Web Tools and Improvements
Under the supervision of the Judicial Conference Judicial Branch Committee and its New Media Subcommittee, the Administrative Office created a toolbox that courts may use when developing, improving, or updating their public-facing websites.
Goals of the toolbox are to assure that content required by statute or by Judicial Conference policy is present on court sites; bring greater consistency in design and functionality across court websites; make information on court Internet websites more available and accessible; and offer a consistent user experience for the public. Collaborating with the District of New Jersey, the AO was able to launch the first version of new district and bankruptcy court templates at the end of fiscal year 2011.
Ongoing improvements to the Judiciary's intranet site, the J-Net, enable AO communications with the courts in a timely and efficient manner. At the close of FY 2011, the AO launched plans to redesign the J-Net to maximize its effectiveness for court users who must visit the site daily. By pursuing open-source—or freely available—web tools, the AO hopes to save on development and maintenance expenses, and make the site more adaptable for the future.
In support of the Judiciary's Cameras in the Courtroom Pilot Program, the AO helped plan and implement a courtroom video recording technical solution for the 14 participating district courts. Staff identified the appropriate technologies, and trained court staff in their use. The finished videos are published on uscourts.gov within hours of their recording. Within a few months after the pilot program launched in July, the courts had made available nine cases and more than 125 videos for public viewing. By using existing videoconferencing equipment and the Judiciary's new video hosting service, the AO has made it possible to hold down expenses for the pilot.
During FY 2011, staff completed various news and educational videos for Judiciary employees, the public, and Congress. Most of these products were released on the Judiciary's public website, its YouTube channel, [http://www.youtube.com/uscourts ] or the Judiciary's intranet websites. Others were broadcast on the Judiciary's closed-circuit satellite network, the Federal Judicial Television Network (FJTN). Staff also produced for court staff several live webcasts of Judiciary training conferences around the country to reduce travel costs and time.
As 2011 drew to a close, the AO and FJC were phasing out the FJTN satellite network, and transitioning completely to live and on-demand webcasting of videos, in keeping with industry practices. The Judiciary will realize significant savings by eliminating satellite distribution.
Using programs and resources developed by the AO, the federal judiciary across the nation brings thousands of students into their courtrooms to participate in trials and jury deliberations. In Washington, D.C., 51 select high school students, in the Freedom Forum's 2011 Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference at the Newseum, applied a landmark First Amendment case to a social media scenario in U.S. District Court. Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth, shown below, is one of hundreds of judges who presides over trial simulations in which young people argue as attorneys and deliberate as jurors on teen-relevant issues including texting while driving, student flash mob protests, cyberbullying, police stops, and house party searches. The programs prepare students to be the next generation of jurors and reinforce their stake in the rule of law, the Constitution, and an impartial judiciary.